§ Lords amendment: No. 155, in page 26, leave out lines 29 to 32.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 156, 157, 161, 164, 165, 166, 169, 170 to 174, 176 to 178 and 183.
§ Mr. Mellor
The amendments relate to the interpretation clause and I shall not speak at great length on their merits. Suffice it to say that this is the final moment of consideration of the Bill. As it moves on to the statute book, I am aware that it does so with the warm support of all who participated in debates in both Houses. I wish to express my gratitude for all the help and support I have received from many colleagues in all parties in trying to get the legislation right. We have not been afraid to make changes even at the last moment and to incorporate in the Bill new concepts as they appeared to be appropriate.
I hope that we can all take some pleasure in that we have joined together to bring on to the statute book legislation which has a tremendous amount of hope pinned on it. As we have discovered, it is not enough of a deterrent to drug traffickers merely to lock them up. It is absolutely crucial to find an effective way of depriving them of the massive profits they can make. While I do not make the claim for any piece of legislation that it can succeed in every case, we have taken a major step forward tonight and I am glad to have played my part in seeing the Bill on to the statute book.
§ Mr. Corbett
I thank the Minister for what he has just said. I wish to make clear the complete commitment of all sides of the House and millions beyond it to waging war as effectively as we can against the menace of drug abuse. No words can in any way exaggerate the extremely dangerous threat which drug abuse poses to a generation of our young people. Regrettably, sections of them seem at war with themselves, and others with society generally. We must try in whatever ways we can to deal with that. One way is the Bill, which makes it clear to those before our courts and those convicted of these vile offences that we shall do our best through this democratically elected assembly and through our courts to ensure that they will not enjoy the fruits of this vile, destructive trade.
1139 In many ways this is a historic Bill, and it is regrettable in the sense that there is a need for it. It signals to those who are engaged in those activities that we are collectively and nationally serious about tackling this problem in this way.
My final point is something that I have told the Minister before, and I now repeat it on behalf of the Opposition. We stand ready to co-operate in any ways open to us with the Minister and his colleagues to give any help that we can towards what should be a national campaign. This should not be a party political matter. We should be joining together— the parties represented in this House, parents, the majority of young people, who do not use drugs, community groups, trade unions, business, commerce and everyone. We all have a vested interest in getting on top of the problem and beating back this vile tide of drugs.
§ Mr. Lawler
I wish to make a brief point, without being churlish after such endorsements. It relates to Lords amendment No. 178. Perhaps some convicted traffickers would prefer to serve a further term of imprisonment and when they are released, enjoy the proceeds on which the courts have not been able to lay their hands. For example, someone could do another five years and have a nice bounty of just under £1 million to enjoy when he came out of retirement, but according to the clause no further action could be taken. In view of that, and the fact that some people might like to take that option—especially if their initial sentences were not that long—can the Minister give an undertaking that the Government will continue to review the deterrent effect of the clause?
§ Mr. Mellor
My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Lawler) has got it slightly wrong in the sense that the defendant has no option in this matter. If his assets lie within the jurisdiction, they can be seized and he cannot say that he would prefer to do the five years. The five years, and indeed, the maximum of 10 years applies to a situation where the assets are out of the jurisdiction and the defendant needs some incentive to be invited to bring them back within the jurisdiction. I look forward to the time when we are able to have the kind of agreements with other countries for mutual enforcement of court orders. After all, if we can do it in relation to maintenance matters in family cases, we ought to be able to do it in this regard. But until that time, people need an incentive. If the property lies in the jurisdiction, or if it is in the hands of third parties or others within the jurisdiction, the option is not available to the defendant. It will be enforced with the full machinery of the High Court masters and so on.
On that positive note, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that we can let you get back to your Oxo.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.