HC Deb 07 March 1990 vol 168 cc859-60
5. Mr. Neale

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what international measures are in hand to destroy trade in illegal drugs.

Mr. Hurd

Some 90 states, including us, have now signed the United Nations convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. I recently went to the UN special session on drugs in New York, which adopted a political declaration and a global programme of action. We shall host a world ministerial summit in London in April to look at ways of reducing the demand for drugs and combating the cocaine threat. Within Europe, anti-drugs co-operation is steadily increasing.

Mr. Neale

Does my right hon. Friend accept that there are many millions of pounds in the international banking system as a result of drug trafficking? Does he further accept that while it can be detected when it first enters the system, once it is in the system it becomes almost impossible to detect? At the forthcoming conference, will he discuss with colleagues from overseas ways in which more reciprocal arrangements can be made between international banks to help detect and confiscate the money?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend is quite right, and that is one of the purposes of the financial action task force that was set up at the Paris summit last year. As my hon. Friend knows, under our 1986 legislation we have strong powers for tracking and investigating laundered money. I agree that it is a matter not just of legal powers, but of co-operation and discussion with the banks, and certainly in this country that has, on the whole, been forthcoming.

Ms. Abbott

Does the Secretary of State accept that commodity prices play a part in the drugs crisis? It is hard to persuade Colombian peasants to stop growing cocaine when the price of coffee has dropped through the floor.

Mr. Hurd

I have heard the argument about that relationship and there may be something in it. It is important when discussing help to Colombia, which we have given promptly and effectively, that we, the Colombian Government and other Governments should take into account what we expect Colombian farmers to grow so that they can have a proper standard of living if they abandon cocaine.

Mr. Allason

Does my right hon. Friend agree that despite the problems highlighted in the Blom-Cooper report, Turks and Caicos, which is an island group and a British colony, is still a staging post for drugs to the United States? Does he have any plans to allow the United States Drug Enforcement Agency and other American anti-drug agencies right of hot pursuit into Turks and Caicos waters?

Mr. Hurd

Certainly, we have tightened up there and in other dependent territories in the Caribbean, as my hon. Friend knows. I shall study the state of play on his suggestion.

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