HL Deb 09 July 1990 vol 521 cc8-10

3 p.m.

Lord Bottomley asked Her Majesty's Government:

What arrangements they propose to make whereby a proportion of the sums confiscated from drug traffickers as a result of international agreements might be used directly to strengthen the United Kingdom's enforcement measures and other efforts to curb drug misuse.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, the Government have decided that some of the funds which may be confiscated here under drug confiscation arrangements with other countries should be available for action against the traffic in and misuse of drugs. The amount of money available and the use to which it is put will be determined each year as part of the normal public expenditure planning exercise. No funds have yet become available under the one agreement which is currently in force with the United States, although some assets are frozen pending trial. Other agreements are expected to be in operation later this year.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that the Attlee Foundation, of which I am chairman, helped to establish Phoenix House, which is a wonderful organisation that does a great deal to control drug abuse? The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, is the chairman. Does the Minister agree that a substantial amount of the moneys received as a result of drug trafficking should be given to organisations such as Phoenix House and the Pegasus Project?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, we have not yet considered exactly how moneys will be distributed when they are received. Any organisation, whether public or private, needs to have continuity of assets as opposed to receiving windfalls. However, on the whole one would expect the moneys to go towards international drug trafficking arrangements.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, does the Minister agree that drug trafficking is now a world evil of immense proportion and that there is little evidence that it is being brought under control? Can he say whether there are reasonable international discussions or whether the Government believe that there is room for improvement upon present agreements and that more severe measures should be taken?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, it is difficult to control organisations dealing in international drug trafficking in the light of opportunities available as regards aeroplanes and methods of concealment. However, I assure the noble Lord that a great deal is being done nationally and internationally. We have our own national drugs intelligence unit. Moreover, £17.5 million per year is channelled through health authorities, for instance, to expand and develop services for drug misusers in England, Scotland and Wales. A great deal of work is being carried out between countries.

Lord Marsh

My Lords, does the Minister agree that his Answer indicated that the Government would not be prepared to accept moneys offered if they were earmarked for a particular case? Is that not an example of the Treasury's obsessive objection to any form of hypothecation carried to absurd limits, when it could mean that the taxpayers are net losers?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord has, unusually, jumped to a conclusion which is perhaps anticipatory of the facts. If people or countries give money with strings attached, we must see whether we can accept the conditions. Clearly, other countries have their own methods of giving money and we have our methods of receiving and dealing with it. If countries are prepared to give money to help solve the problem, we shall willingly consider what it suggested.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, can the Minister in his kindness return to the spirit of the Question—that confiscated moneys obtained from drug traffickers as a result of international agreements should go to combat drug trafficking? Is it the policy of Her Majesty's Government to argue for that course rather than allow the moneys to go into general Exchequer funds, which would be wrong?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the general route is that money goes into Exchequer funds and then government departments argue for it to come out again. Already £1 million has been given to set up a police fund and this has been available since April of this year. It is to meet additional police costs incurred overseas during international drug investigations. The noble Lord has made a fair point; if money is accepted from drug trafficking it should go towards combatting it. It is our hope that that will be so, but clearly it must follow several special routes.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, is it the policy of Her Majesty's Government to encourage that?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to encourage that, but I would not give the noble Lord an undertaking that every single pound or penny accepted from that source will find its way back.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House how many specially-trained sniffer dogs are used in the detection of drugs and whether some of the money can be spent on training more of them?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, my brief contains much information on a number of subjects but not about sniffer dogs. If possible I shall ascertain the answer and write to the noble Baroness.

Lord Rodney

My Lords, did the Minister say that as yet no money has been confiscated from drug traffickers?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, as yet no money has been confiscated from international drug trafficking, although some has been frozen.

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