HC Deb 09 May 1962 vol 659 cc441-2
36. Mr. Wade

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty in view of the discovery of opium and heroin on the British cruiser "Belfast", whether he is satisfied with the security precautions in the Singapore naval base; and what steps are being taken to prevent British ships being used for the carrying of illicit drugs.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

My answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes". There are standing arrangements between the Naval and Customs Authorities at Singapore for the prevention of smuggling at the naval base; these include the searching of H.M. ships. The effectiveness of these arrangements is evidenced by the discovery of the contraband to which the hon. Member refers. As to the second part of the Question, these arrangements are of course adjustable; and any additional measures required will be taken in the light of the joint investigation into the "Belfast" incident now being held by the naval and customs authorities in close consultation.

Mr. Wade

Does the Minister agree that it would be regrettable if, as a result of the publicity given to this incident, unfair reflections were cast on personnel in the Regular Navy? If, as I understand it, those concerned in this case were casual labour, are they subject to the same security measures as the Regular naval establishment. Thirdly, is the Minister satisfied that there is the closest possible consultation between all the authorities concerned in trying to stop this traffic in illicit drugs?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I am confident that no United Kingdom Royal Navy personnel were in any way involved. On the contrary, I think that it reflects to the credit of the Royal Navy personnel that they discovered this illicit drug traffic. Regarding security, all Chinese employees must have five years' residential qualification in Hong Kong or Singapore and must have satisfactory references covering the last five years. They are checked by the relevant Service security authorities. On the last point, the Controller of Customs at Singapore has personally stated that the local authorities have received every possible assistance from the naval authorities.

Mr. G. R. Howard

Can my hon. Friend say what are existing security arrangements at Singapore and Hong Kong?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

There are three separate checks liable to be imposed in the dockyard area. In addition to the police patrol for the dockyards in Admiralty waters there are facilities given for customs officers to search Her Majesty's ships. Additional special precautions may be taken in consultation with customs, and all Her Majesty's ships leaving the Orient are thoroughly searched for illicit drugs. It was during one of these searches that the drugs were discovered.