Third Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.



Thursday 20 June 1991


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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. Norman Hogg

Butcher, Mr. John (Coventry, South-West)

Campbell, Mr. Menzies (Fife, North-East)

Cook, Mr. Frank (Stockton, North)

Coombs, Mr. Simon (Swindon)

Cunliffe, Mr. Lawrence (Leigh)

Dewar, Mr. Donald (Glasgow, Garscadden)

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland)

Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas (Perth and Kinross)

Hood, Mr. Jimmy (Clydesdale)

Jopling, Mr. Michael (Westmorland and Lonsdale)

Kirkhope, Mr. Timothy (Leeds, North-East)

Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)

Meale, Mr. Alan (Mansfield)

Monro, Sir Hector (Dumfries)

Stevens, Mr. Lewis (Nuneaton)

Thompson, Mr. Donald (Calder Valley)

Vaz, Mr. Keith (Leicester, East)

Walden, Mr. George (Buckingham)

Wilson, Mr. Brian (Cunninghame, North)

Mr. M. D. Hamlyn, Committee Clerk

3 Third Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Thursday 20 June 1991

[MR. NORMAN HOGGin the Chair]

Draft Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990 (Enforcement of Overseas Forfeiture Orders) (Scotland) Order 1991

4.38 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990 (Enforcement of Overseas Forfeiture Orders) (Scotland) Order 1991.

The Chairman: With the agreement of the Committee, it will be convenient to discuss at the same time the other order before us, namely, the draft Confiscation of the Proceeds of Drug Trafficking (Designated Countries and Territories) (Scotland) Order 1991.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: May I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Hogg? I thank hon. Members for attending the Committee, which is sitting this afternoon because the Scottish Grand Committee met this morning. There is all-party agreement that drug trafficking must be dealt with severely. Bills have passed through Parliament with all-party support. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) who helped to bring Scottish law up to date with English law last summer in the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990, which dealt with that and other matters. The United Kingdom wishes to act effectively in the international fight against drug trafficking and crime. We have pledged to do all in our power to combat those who perpetrate drug-related offences and to deter others from following their lead. One of our major strengths is the degree of international co-operation that has been built up. The more that we can be certain that there is no safe haven for drug traffickers, the more effective will be our actions against them. The Government have contributed positively and constructively to international agreements. The United Nations convention—

The Chairman: Order. We do not have a quorum.

Sitting suspended.

4.41 pm

On resuming

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling), with whom I used to work when I was Whip, for returning to the Room. For simplicity's sake, I shall refer to the United Nations convention on illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and illicit substances as the Vienna convention. The United Kingdom signed the convention on 20 December 1988. In order to comply with obliations arising out of our ratification of the 4 Vienna convention on 1 July, we have to ensure that the necessary legal and procedural frameworks are in place to enable action to be taken across international boundaries, to forfeit property, and to confiscate proceeds related to drug trafficking. We already have the statutory framework, the two draft orders provide the detail. The first, the draft Confiscation of the Proceeds of Drug Trafficking (Designated Countries and Territories) (Scotland) Order 1991 is made under section 30 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1987, which sets out a list of designated countries which are either those to which the Vienna convention applies, or those with which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary concluded bilateral agreements on confiscation. In that way, we can confiscate proceeds from drug trafficking. We shall receive reciprocal assistance from the designated countries under the Vienna convention and the bilateral confiscation agreements. Other countries will bring forward their own provisions. Once the order is accepted, we shall be in a position to confiscate proceeds, which is most important.

Mr. William McKelvey (Kilmarnock and Loudoun): That is quite an impressive list. I am sure that we are all pleased at how far-reaching the measures are. Are there any important countries with which we have not yet concluded an agreement? Are any discussions still continuing? Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: I am pretty certain that there are, and we shall pursue any such discussions at international level as vigorously as possible. We want the strongest possible degree of international co-operation, and we are already quite advanced now. The second order is made under section 9 of the 1990 Act. It provides for the enforcement in Scotland of orders made in the court of a designated country for the forfeiture and destruction or other disposal of things used or involved in the commission of a drug-trafficking offence. These powers will also apply to proceedings which have been, or are to be, instituted in a designated country and may result in such a forfeiture order being made there. Anything that is used illegally in drug trading can be forfeited under the provisions. It could be an aircraft, a power boat, a James Bond car, a suitcase or even a golden gun. Only a few hours ago I heard that a gold ornamental toothpick, which was the product of drug trafficking, was seized in Scotland; regrettably, I have to tell the Committee that it was worth only£100. However, the total value of what was seized amounted to£84,000. It is the principle that matters. When the order is in place, property can also be forfeited.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East): Will the Minister deal with one specific type of property that may be seized—dangerous dogs? If drug traffickers hold fighting or guard attack dogs for protection against the police, could they be seized? If so, what would the Government do with the dogs?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: I am sure that under one statue or another, measures could be taken against dangerous dogs. I am aware of the hon. Gentlemen's interest in the matter because of what happened to one of his constituents. Anything that a drug trafficker uses can be forfeited if a case can be made and proved. In practice—

Mr. McAllion: I accept the Minister's assurance that a dog could be seized and held by the authorities, but what would the authorities then do with that dog?


Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: That depends on the circumstances of the case, the degree of danger and the threat that the dog poses to others. The way that it is dealt with will be a matter of common sense. However, I note the hon. Gentleman's interest. Indeed, I met with the hon. Gentleman and his constituent to discuss the matter. It is also covered by other legislation. Our courts will not have to act on behalf of another country in a way which they will consider unjust or unacceptable. They will only force confiscation or forfeiture from an overseas authority when it is properly made and third parties have had adequate opportunity to be heard or represented.

4.45 pm

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill): My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) was unable to attend and he sends his apologies. As you can see, Mr. Hogg, we have no less than five volunteers to take his place. We welcome the change in legislation because it will tighten up on drug trafficking. I notice that at yesterday's meeting of a similar Committee the Minister commented that the point of the legislation was to enable us to comply with our obligations under the United Nations convention against the illicit traffic in drugs. Further, he expected that action under the changes would start around the end of June or the beginning of July. If that is also true of the Scottish legislation, we shall certainly welcome such prompt action. We look forward to the confiscation of the proceeds of drug trafficking and the forfeit of the materials. It may interest the Committee to know that on Tuesday the Labour party held a conference on drug abuse and how to tackle it. At that conference it was suggested that when drug trafficking assets were confiscated, the proceeds could be used for the highly appropriate purpose of educating people about drug abuse. Has the Minister considered that? Has the Minister knowledge of how much money has been confiscated in Scotland under current legislation? A figure of£27 million was mentioned at yesterday's Committee sitting on the statutory instrument that dealt with the same subject for England and Wales, but it was not clear whether that figure related only to England and Wales or whether it was for the United Kingdom. I am also curious to know why 35 countries have been designated for England and Wales, and 51 for Scotland. Is it simply that at the time when the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1987 was passed no list was available, and this is no more than a tidying-up operation? It is odd for the Scottish papers for the Committee to run to 51 pages whereas the English ran to only three. Will the Minister give us a word of explanation for the extra detail here? I welcome the steps taken by the Government today, particularly because of what is happening in my constituency. It has no less than two needle exchange units in it and parents are worried about the extent of drug addiction in the area. Children can pick up needles lying around in the grass of the play areas or find them discarded on tenement staircases. The Milton Family Support Group is a parents' group that was set up to give help and counselling to the families of those who are, or have been, addicted to drugs. It will certainly be glad to hear that the House of Commons is taking further action to strike back 6 at those who are so unscrupulous and so lacking in concern for their fellow human beings that they will make money—and earn fortunes—out of this evil trade. We certainly promise the Labour party's full cooperation in the Government's efforts to tackle this serious social problem.

4.48 pm

Mr. McKelvey: All hon. Members welcome the measures in these statutory instruments. In all of the constituencies of Members of this Committee, there is a growing problem which is causing great concern. We have argued for a long time that it was nonsense for the people who perpetrate illicit drug deals, and cause the misery that that ensues, to be allowed to keep the profits. If someone is caught and he is proven to have taken part in drug-related offences, will his assets, including his bank account, be seized? If so, will he then have to provide the court with sufficient evidence to prove why his assets should not be removed? If he has£50,000 or £60,000 stashed in a bank, all of it would be assumed to have come from his illicit activities unless he could prove that they were not the source of his wealth. Perhaps the Minister could advise us on that. We all welcome the orders because those who deal in drugs will see that the penalties will be severe in the extreme. I am worried about the growing incidence of drug-related diseases, particularly of AIDS. Scotland has a peculiar problem, in that drug addiction usually involves injecting, and AIDS has spread as a result, especially in Edinburgh. It is now causing great anxiety among Dundonians. I hope that AIDS does not travel to Kilmarnock. Drugs seem to be supplied from Glasgow, although agents are now operating in Kilmarnock. The police are doing all that they can to trace and eliminate that source. I hope that the orders will be heartily endorsed by the Committee.

4.51 pm

Mr. McAllion: The Minister recently gave me several written answers about crime levels in Dundee. One of the fastest rising crimes in Dundee, according to one of his answers, is drug-abuse. For the most part, those who are convicted of drug-abuse are the victims of drug-traffickers; they are not the real criminals. However, they are still a serious problem for people who live in Dundee, Tayside and elsewhere in Scotland. The problem manifests itself in various ways. Drug-addicts, for example, go to their local general practitioners to get methadone prescriptions to help them to kick their habit. However, that system is abused. Drug addicts tend to congregate around health centres and in the surgeries of GPs in order to intimidate and upset other members of the public. As a result, some health boards have to consider whether to appoint security guards to ensure that members of the public are not interfered with, which is an unsatisfactory way of dealing with the problem. The only answer is to give each area a fully integrated and comprehensive drug-addicts' service, which would deal with them separately. However, funding such a service is a key problem. The Minister has the full support of the Committee in confiscating the property of drug-traffickers. However, what will happen to the money that is confiscated? Will it go directly to the Scottish Office? Will it be kept in a separate budget? Could it be used to fund schemes and health boards across Scotland to set up integrated and 7 comprehensive drugs services? We should then deal with the problem on the ground, and not see the money disappear into the Treasury, where it would come under the control of the Government. It would not be easy to identify what the Government were doing with that money.

4.53 pm

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: We have had a valuable debate. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) for her expression of support. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) asked about dangerous dogs. The Procurator-Fiscal will decide on that matter. Members of the Committee were anxious about what would happen to funds that were confiscated. I am glad that we are doing what the hon. Member for Maryhill wants. Confiscated funds will be kept by the country or territory that enforces the confiscation. Money confiscated here under international agreements will be recycled through a seized assets fund. The fund will be available for one-off projects to help the fight against drug-misuse in the United Kingdom or abroad. The Scottish Office home and health department will bid accordingly for the Scottish share of that fund. Projects may include education, publicity, treatment, rehabilitation, and the supply of special equipment for the police or customs. No funds have yet been confiscated on behalf of another country, although a substantial sum has been restrained. The fund is expected to begin next year. In response to the speech of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey), I must say that we are making the same provisions for the proceeds of foreign drug-trafficking as have been in place since 1987 for the proceeds of Scottish drug-trafficking. 8 I was asked about the figure of£27 million, which relates to the United Kingdom as a whole. The amount confiscated in Scotland has been in the region of £170,000, which is not large. Larger fines have been imposed in the courts. I was also asked about international co-operation. I am glad to report that the English order, which already had an enabling provision, has a list that is up to date. We had to wait for the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990. The orders apply to the same number of countries both north and south of the border. Britain has concluded bilateral agreements with 21 countries, which I could list. We are pursuing agreements with other countries, and we shall enlarge the list as quickly as we can. That covers the main points that were raised. An irony today is that all the speeches were made by hon. Members who were not listed as Members of the Committee. I thank them for their support.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990 (Enforcement of Overseas Forteiture Orders) (Scotland) Order 1991.

Draft Confiscation of the Proceeds of Drug Trafficking (Designated Countries and Territories) (Scotland) Order 1991

Resolved, That the Commitee has considered the draft Confiscation of the Proceeds of Drug Trafficking (Designated Countries and Territories) (Scotland) Order 1991.—(Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]

Committee rose at four minutes to Five o'clock.


Hogg, Mr. Norman (Chairman)

Coombs, Mr. Simon

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Jopling, Mr.

Lloyd, Sir Ian

Walden, Mr.

The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 101 (2):

Adams, Mrs. Irene (Paisley, North)

Fyfe, Mrs. Maria (Glasgow, Maryhill)

McAllion, Mr. John (Dundee, East)

McKelvey, Mr. William (Kilmarnock and Loudoun)

McMaster, Mr. Gordon (Paisley, South)