HC Deb 07 February 1990 vol 166 cc881-2
11. Mr. Butler

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contribution he or his Department expects to make to the forthcoming special session of the United Nations assembly concerned with drug misuse

Mr. Hurd

I shall be going to the special session. The United Kingdom will work for a commitment to improving the effectiveness of the United Nations effort against drugs, and for agreement on a practical programme of international action, including ratification of the relevant United Nations conventions, measures to strengthen the monitoring of the movement of precursor chemicals, and undertakings to develop a network of agreements to trace, freeze and confiscate the proceeds of drug trafficking

Mr. Butler

Will my right hon. Friend press for the appointment of a United Nations drugs czar to co-ordinate the present efforts?

Mr. Hurd

I am not sure about a drugs czar. If my hon. Friend means that there is a certain diffusion or scattering of United Nations effort through the different agencies in Vienna, he is on to something. That is what I meant when I referred, in Foreign Office language, to the effectiveness of the United Nations effort". We need to ensure that our contributions to that effort go where they are needed in the prevention of drug trafficking

Mr. Vaz

Does the Foreign Secretary share my concern that the draft programme that he has put in the Library for the United Nations conference in London has no special session covering young people and the reduction of drug demand? Does he agree that at a conference of that kind, which will attract people from all over the world, it is very important to have people with direct, relevant experience of drug-taking? With respect, long speeches by the Prime Minister and others who have not had direct, relevant experience of drug-taking will not help us solve the problems.

Mr. Hurd

I note the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. He is perfectly right: the next big date on the calendar for drug misuse is our summit meeting here in Britain from 9 to 11 April. The agenda will have two points: the reduction of demand and the specific threat from cocaine and crack. It is important that those who discuss reduction of demand should have a vivid representation before them of what they are talking about. The hon. Member will have noticed that President Bush has steered the latest version of the United States anti-drug programme to demand reduction, and he will have noticed our own major new programme recently announced in that connection.

Mr. Wells

Does my right hon. Friend agree that reduction in the supply of drugs is extremely important in dealing with drug misuse? Will he therefore make certain that at this United Nations special conference there is discussion of alternative crops in the countries where drugs are produced? In particular, will he turn his mind to the consideration of banana production, which is an alternative to drug production in Colombia and much of Latin America, and to the prevention of the deleterious effect of the enormous increase proposed in Santo Domingo's supply of bananas to the European Community?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend is subtly leading me from one subject to another—from drugs to bananas. He is perfectly right to say that where it can be shown that crop substitution is enforceable, it is right to support it—as we do, for example, in Pakistan. Enforceability is important as a great deal of money could be wasted otherwise.

Mr. Sheerman

Will the special assembly take Britain's contribution seriously if it realises that Britain is not taking on those banks which we know are heavily involved in laundering drug money and are operating freely in the City of London? Is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman talked to his colleagues to ensure that something is done about that scandal?

Mr. Hurd

The hon. Gentleman's rhetoric is about four years out of date. This Government have been the pioneers in putting the necessary legislation through Parliament, in bringing that legislation into effect, and in negotiating agreements —of which there are now 13—with countries that have followed the same route. It is not just a United Kingdom effort, but an international effort. The hon. Gentleman knows that it is continuing and is beginning to produce useful results.

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