PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

Fifth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.

DRAFT DRUG TRAFFICKING OFFENCES ACT 1986 (DESIGNATED COUNTRIES AND TERRITORIES) (AMENDMENT) ORDER 1991

DRAFT CRIMINAL JUSTICE (INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION) ACT 1990 (ENFORCEMENT OF OVERSEAS FORFEITURE ORDERS) ORDER 1991

Wednesday 19 June 1991

LONDON: HMSO

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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: MR. GEOFFREY LOFTHOUSE

Ashton, Mr. Joseph (Bassetlaw)

Bermingham, Mr. Gerald (St. Helens, South)

Brown, Mr. Michael (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

Carrington, Mr. Matthew (Fulham)

Couchman, Mr. James (Gillingham)

Galloway, Mr. George (Glasgow, Hillhead)

Grant, Mr. Bernie (Tottenham)

Hinchliffe, Mr. David (Wakefield)

Knight, Mr. Greg (Derby, North)

Maclennan, Mr. Robert (Caithness and Sutherland)

Madden, Mr. Max (Bradford, West)

Patten, Mr. John (Minister of State, Home Office)

Sheerman, Mr. Barry (Huddersfield)

Shepherd, Mr. Colin (Hereford)

Thorne, Mr. Neil (Ilford, South)

Vaughan, Sir Gerard (Reading, East)

Viggers, Mr. Peter (Gosport)

Wheeler, Sir John (Westminster, North)

Wilshire, Mr. David (Spelthorne)

Mr. M. D. Hamlyn, Committee Clerk.

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3 Fifth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 19 June 1991

[MR. GEOFFREY LOFTHOUSE in the Chair]

DRAFT DRUG TRAFFICKING OFFENCES ACT 1986 (DESIGNATED COUNTRIES AND TERRITORIES) (AMENDMENT) ORDER 1991

10.30 am

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. John Patten): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 (Designated Countries and Territories) (Amendment) Order 1991.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the other order before us, namely, the draft Criminal Justice (International Co—operation) Act 1990 (Enforcement of Overseas Forfeiture Orders) Order 1991.

Mr. Patten: First, may I say what a pleasure it is to see you in the Chair, Mr. Lofthouse, looking as fresh as a daisy and as alert as ever, despite the fact that you left the Finance Bill Committee at only 2 o'clock this morning; so we are all the more flattered that you are here today to look after our affairs. The Orders in Council mark a further advance for England and Wales in international judicial co—operation against drug trafficking and I am most grateful for the all—party support that has been given to similar orders in the past and to the main legislation. I am extremely grateful to the official Opposition. Similar orders will be introduced in respect of Scotland and Northern Ireland, but the two orders before the Committee deal with England and Wales only. The purpose of the orders is twofold. First, they will enable us to comply with obligations that arise out of our ratification of the United Nations convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. That will take place towards the end of June or at the beginning of July. Secondly, the orders will enable us to implement further agreements and arrangements of a practical sort, which we have negotiated with specific countries to confiscate the proceeds of drug trafficking and to order the forfeiture of materials used. Therefore, I commend the orders to the Committee.

10.32 am

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield): I, also should like to say, Mr. Lofthouse, that it is nice to see you looking as spruce and immaculate as ever. Not adjourning a Committee until 2 o'clock in the morning means nothing to a true Yorkshireman. The orders are not politically contentious. The Opposition are in favour of taking the most effective steps possible against international drug trafficking. Both orders will allow us to fulfil our international obligations in relation to drug trafficking. As the Minister said, they will ensure that Britain facilitates the confiscation of drug trafficking assets, a move that the Opposition strongly support. 4 It would be wrong if I did not flag one issue. Articles have been published in the national press which suggest that the current legislation is not working fast enough or going deep enough. They have suggested that the current legal and administrative processes lead to the confiscation of a small percentage only of the potential moneys that could be confiscated. I hope that the two orders will aid that process. If they do not, the Opposition will be eager to co—operate with the Government to bring about any change in the law that would bring to book more people for drug trafficking and would ensure that more assets were confiscated and put to better use. Only yesterday, the Labour party held a one—day conference on drugs, drug trafficking and supply and demand. That conference emphasises the importance we attach to the issue. At that conference, co—operation across party lines was strongly recommended to ensure that drug traffickers were caught and their assets confiscated so that the proceeds could be used to educate people about the damage that they do to themselves through drug misuse.

10.34 am

Mr. John Patten: I welcome the spirit in which the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) made his remarks. I should inform him that that our national drugs intelligence unit has calculated that, thus far, about £27 million has been ordered to be confiscated under the current legislation and that the unit has estimated that, at any one time, about £30 million is under restraint, pending investigation by the courts. We can see, therefore, that the legislation is beginning to work in the way in which both parties intended in the mid—1980s. There are some loopholes, which the Government made clear in a working party report that was published a while ago. I shall ensure that a copy is sent to the hon. Member for Huddersfield. British legislation is pioneering. Only yesterday, His Excellency the Prime Minister of Barbados visited the Home Office and told me that his country had modelled its legislation on our legislation. Several other countries around the globe are also modelling their drugs confiscation legislation on British legislation. We have also taken the lead in European and United Nations circles. However, this is a complex business and the Government would not hesitate to legislate to stop up loopholes if they felt that that was in the interests of the administration of justice. I am sure that we shall have the co—operation of the Opposition in the future, as we have in the past.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved. That the Committee has considered the draft Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 (Designated Countries and Territories) (Amendment) Order 1991.

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

Resolved. That the Committee has considered the draft Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990 (Enforcement of Overseas Forfeiture Orders) Order 1991. —[Mr. John Patten.]

Committee rose at twenty—four minutes to Eleven o'clock.

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THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Lofthouse, Mr. Geoffrey (Chairman)

Brown, Mr. Michael

Carrington, Mr.

Knight, Mr. Greg

Patten, Mr. John

Sheerman, Mr.

Thorne, Mr.

Viggers, Mr.

Wilshire, Mr.

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