HC Deb 22 February 1990 vol 167 cc1050-1
1. Mr. Rathbone

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how plans are progressing for the international drug demand reduction conference in London from 9 to 11 April.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Waddington)

Plans for the summit are well advanced. It will be opened by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in the presence of the President of Colombia and the Secretary General of the United Nations. On the second day, Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal has graciously consented to address the summit. A paper giving details of the outline programme is in the Library.

Mr. Rathbone

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that information, but since, after studying that paper, there is concern that the conference may be taken off the rails—to follow the more newsworthy track of studying the cocaine menace—will my right hon. and learned Friend reassure me that it will concentrate strictly, as many hon. Members believe it should, on the important issue of demand reduction?

Mr. Waddington

I assure my hon. Friend that great concentration will be placed on the problem of demand reduction, but it is difficult to see how one can discuss demand reduction except in the context of the large numbers of drugs coming into the country, particularly cocaine.

Mr. Sheerman

Is the Home Secretary aware that Opposition Members are pleased that he did his homework in preparation for the conference by going to the United States and studying the problem there? Will he still have time to visit European countries such as Holland. France and Germany, whose experience may be more similar to ours than that of the United States? When he was in the United States, did he have time to talk about the fundamentals, not the superficial elements, of demand reduction? As drugs are rooted in poverty, bad education and underprivilege of every kind, when will the Government do something about them?

Mr. Waddington

The hon. Gentleman must face the fact that when living standards were much lower than they are today there was less of a drugs problem. I shall not have an opportunity to visit the European countries that he mentioned, but it is right to consider the experience of others and the position in different parts of our country. That is one reason for the new drugs initiative that we shall launch at the beginning of April.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

As Colombia is bearing the brunt of the war against the odious drug barons, is not it appropriate that President Barco will play such a significant part in the conference? What is our country doing to help Colombia in its fight, and what more should it do?

Mr. Waddington

I am glad to say that we give considerable help to that brave country and to its brave president. Recently, we gave Colombia £4 million of aid. The Home Office has contributed communications equipment for the anti-narcotics agencies, motor bikes for drug enforcement teams and training equipment for the judicial authorities.