HC Deb 11 May 1995 vol 259 c872
4. Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what currently available figures he has for the quantities and value of drugs seized at United Kingdom airports over any conveniently available recent 12-month period. [22228]

The Paymaster General (Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory)

During 1994 Customs and Excise seized 47 tonnes of cannabis and four tonnes of cocaine, heroin and synthetic drugs, with a total street value of some £551 million. Some 10½ per cent. by value of these drugs were seized at airports.

Mr. Dalyell

May I ask a question of which I have given Treasury officials notice? Could they put in the Library an account of what a senior Customs official, Mr. Philip Connolly—whom I do not criticise in any way—said to senior Pan American airways security officers Michael Jones and Jim Berwick about controlled drugs delivery? Will the Minister consider asking a senior Treasury official to watch carefully the two-hour film about Lockerbie which is to be screened tonight on Channel 4? The significance or otherwise of my question will then become apparent.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

The hon. Gentleman did me the courtesy of giving me notice of his intention to raise the Lockerbie case. A British Customs officer did give information to an American court about the Lockerbie bombing, and confirmed that bag-switching is a technique used by drug smuggling organisations. However, there is no evidence that that was the way in which the bomb was put on the flight in question; nor were British Customs involved in any controlled delivery of drugs on that ill-fated flight. I shall ask my officials to watch the programme to be screened this evening, and I will supply any additional information to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Allason

Will my hon. Friend agree to look at the Treasury's policy relating to foreign rewards paid to British police forces for drugs seizures overseas? Is he aware that the Drug Enforcement Administration is prepared to pay very large sums in return for information that leads to drug seizures abroad? Under Treasury rules, all of that money must go directly to the Exchequer whereas, under DEA rules, the money must go directly to the drug squads involved. Therefore, Britain is denying itself large sums of money that would be available from the United States in the fight against drugs.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

I am not sure whether my hon. Friend is quite correct in what he says. The proceeds of international drugs seizures can be recycled to drug enforcement agencies, including those in this country. I will obtain the details and write to my hon. Friend about the matter.