HC Deb 07 November 1996 vol 284 cc1348-9
3. Mr. Michael Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the Government's policy with regard to United Kingdom accession to the Schengen treaty. [916]

Mr. Howard

The Government have no intention of seeking accession to the Schengen treaty.

Mr. Brown

I am delighted to hear that answer. Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that border controls are essential in our aim to defeat drug trafficking and all other forms of crime? May I appeal to my right hon. and learned Friend to have a word with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ensure that there are sufficient customs officers at ports such as Immingham in my constituency, and at Humberside airport in my constituency, which are vulnerable to drug trafficking and the importing of illegal goods?

Mr. Howard

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of maintaining our frontier controls. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I have made it clear on more than one occasion that we have no intention of doing anything to dismantle or weaken them. With reference to customs and immigration officers, my hon. Friend will be aware that we are making greater use of intelligence-led action to deal with the importation of drugs and other forbidden substances and articles into the United Kingdom. Those methods are having considerable success.

Mr. Beith

Does the Home Secretary's opposition to the Schengen agreement extend to the work of Europol, which is essential in tackling international drug trafficking and in which British police officers play an important role? Why has the British Government resisted the development of Europol, on occasion blocking its essential provisions? Is that part of the Schengen argument?

Mr. Howard

As usual, the right hon. Gentleman has completely the wrong end of the stick. In fact, the United Kingdom Government were at the forefront of progress in establishing Europol. We continue to make progress in advancing it, and we expect to be one of the first countries to ratify the Europol convention.

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