HC Deb 31 October 1994 vol 248 cc1319-21

Order for Second Reading read.

10.16 pm
The Solicitor-General (Sir Derek Spencer)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This is a pure consolidation measure.

10.17 pm]

Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

I am aware that the motion that I tabled was not in order, but I hope that it drew the attention of the House to something that I believe could have been incorporated in this consolidation measure. I am referring to allowing funds that are confiscated to be used and applied to the Government's efforts to tackle the horrible problems of drug misuse.

The issue has been raised before. The last time that I did so was during the passage of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, but unfortunately the Government missed that opportunity for incorporation. Even though I realise that the Bill that we are discussing is a consolidation measure, I am sorry that, again, the opportunity for incorporation has not been taken.

Moneys that are seized by other Governments with the help of our marvellous officers, especially drugs liaison officers, are applied to the Government's efforts to tackle the problems of drugs misuse. Indeed, sometimes the moneys will not be paid to this country unless they are so applied. The tragedy is that they are relatively small sums—£3 million or £4 million a year—while the sums that are confiscated are 10 times or more that amount. If those sums were applied not instead of, but in addition to, the moneys spent and the efforts made by the Government to control drug trafficking, drug misuse and, in particular, reducing demand, everyone would gain. The drug takers, the families and the communities in which they live would gain.

I hope that the Government will apply themselves to that point and incorporate my proposal. If it is not possible to do so in this consolidation measure, it should be done in other legislation as soon as possible.

10.18 pm
Mr. Paul Boateng (Brent, South)

This is a consolidation measure, and a necessary and welcome one. We too feel some regret that the Government have not taken this opportunity to strengthen and, indeed, consolidate a national strategy against drug trafficking. [Interruption.] It is a pity that, when the House is addressing an issue this important, albeit relatively late at night, one particular Conservative Member should feel it necessary to interject from a sedentary position, saying, "Churlish." It is not churlish to ask the House to spend a little time considering an issue of real concern to our constituents, which threatens the health of the nation, is breaking up communities and families throughout the country, and requires a national strategy.

Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

I did not say "Churlish." I do not know what the hon. Gentleman heard, but it was not that from me. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right—that, unfortunately, this is just a consolidation measure, and it does not allow us to take up the whole issue. I wish that it did, but there will be other opportunities and the hon. Gentleman will find that the House will give him its support.

Mr. Boateng

I welcome that comment, but we have an opportunity to consider what we are consolidating. The Opposition will take every opportunity to raise on the Floor of the House the evil of drug trafficking, because we do not believe that parliamentary time applied solely to the issue of consolidating a drug trafficking measure, which this is, should pass without taking the opportunity to emphasise that much more needs to be done—particularly locally—if this consolidation is to have the impact on the drug trade that it is designed to have.

That is why we feel it necessary to draw attention to the fact that when the House considered the Criminal Justice Bill and the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill, matters consolidated in this legislation were raised on the Floor of the House. We gave the Government an opportunity to give local authorities—in co-operation with the police, probation service and other appropriate agencies—a statutory responsibility to combat drug abuse and to educate young people as part and parcel of a national drug prevention strategy.

Such a strategy, in conjunction with the measures in this consolidation Bill, would effectively bring into play the powers of the House and the responsibilities of the Home Office, the Attorney-General and the Lord Chancellor's Department, together with the police and local authorities on the ground, to end this evil trade.

We give the measure a welcome, but feel able to raise only two cheers for the Government, because there remains much more to be done.

10.22 pm
The Solicitor-General

The only issue before the House is whether the existing law should be consolidated in the Bill or left as it is, in a number of different statutes. I did not hear the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) suggest that, but if he were to have his way and not approve the consolidation, we would be left with the Criminal Justice Act 1988, Criminal Justice Act 1993, Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990 and Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill that is shortly to reach the statute book—all of which cover different provisions that are brought together in the Drug Trafficking Bill.

I am always grateful for any suggestions from my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone), especially on this subject. However, if my hon. Friend were to get his way, we would not have the opportunity to make this consolidation and my hon. Friend would have been deprived of his opportunity to make the comments that he did.

The hon. Member for Brent, South has not been paying attention to the national drug strategy that the Government have pursued for a considerable time, which was recently extended and to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred in a speech only a fortnight ago.

Mr. Boateng

We have been paying particular attention tothe national drug prevention strategy. Our concern is its inadequacy. Let me give the Solicitor-General an example, if I may, since he chooses—

Madam Speaker

Order. This is, I believe, an intervention, not another speech.

Mr. Boateng

I wonder whether I could draw to the attention of the hon. and learned Gentleman—[Interruption.] Well, I am asked to put my comments in the form of a question. I will do so. Is the Minister aware of the concerns of local authorities, throughout the country, including police authorities, about the failure of the Government to put their money where their mouths are in terms of the national drug prevention strategy? Without such money, such a strategy is worthless.

The Solicitor-General

I am aware of the contrary position in my constituency of Brighton, Pavilion, where there is a very active drug prevention unit. In other parts of the country, where they are necessary, there are similar units.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Bates.]

Bill immediately considered in Committee; reported without amendment; considered; read the Third time, and passed, without amendment.

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