HC Deb 24 November 1994 vol 250 cc294-6W
Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress he has made in tackling international drug trafficking.

Mr. Maclean

The Government remain fully committed to the international fight against illicit drug trafficking, as part of their comprehensive anti-drugs strategy, comprising action on supply and demand reduction. Action is being taken forward vigorously by the Government on a number of fronts, aimed at improving the effectiveness of international co-operation against the drug traffickersUnited Kingdom enforcement agencies maintain extensive operational links with overseas counterparts, reinforced by 37 drug liaison officers in 22 countries, who work closely with local law enforcement agencies. The United Kingdom is playing a prominent part in the development of the European Police Office, Europol, based on a United Kingdom initiative to establish a European drugs intelligence unit. The first stage of Europol, the European drugs unit, formally opened in February 1994. It exchanges and analyses criminal intelligence on drug trafficking and associated money laundering activities affecting European Union member states. The United Kingdom staff at the Europol drugs unit report to the National Criminal Intelligence Service—NCIS—which provides an intelligence co-ordinating role for police and Customs in this country and a national focal point for exchange of information and intelligence about serious crime, including drug trafficking, and major criminals of international interest. We actively support the leadership role of the United Nations international drug control programme—UNDPC—supporting a range of multilateral anti-drugs projects worldwide. We also give support bilaterally, through for example the provision of training and equipment to improve the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies in appropriate countries. In the last three years, the United Kingdom has provided over £29 million in drug-related assistance overseas. The United Kingdom has continued to encourage countries that have not done so to ratify the 1988 United Nations convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and to implement its provisions fully in domestic legislation. The 1988 convention established a solid basis for international co-operation in a number of important areas, such as seizure and confiscation of drug traffickers' assets, mutual legal assistance, extradition, controlled deliveries, precursor control and maritime intervention. Provisions enabling the United Kingdom to ratify the 1988 convention, in June 1991, were included in the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990. The United Kingdom fully implemented, last year, European Community legislation controlling trade in the precursor and essential chemicals required to manufacture illicit drugs, based on the recommendations of the chemical action task force. We have continued to work within the European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations and with other major donors to promote good practice and to ensure more effective action against drugs, particularly in relation to countries of central and eastern Europe. The United Kingdom recognises the important role of the International Criminal Police Organisation—Interpol—and the World Customs Organisation—WCO, formerly the Customs Co-operation Council—and supports its activities in a practical way, providing expert practitioners from HM Customs and police to participate in its initiatives. The United Kingdom has been particularly instrumental in the promotion of the WCO's initiative on customs/business co-operation against drugs trafficking and has implemented its own national programme of memoranda of understanding with trade associations and members.