HC Deb 03 December 1987 vol 123 cc696-7W
56. Mr. Cash

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress has been made in recent months in stimulating closer international co-operation by customs authorities against drug production and trafficking.

Mr. Lilley

The United Kingdom has an excellent record of international co-operation in the customs field.

Customs and Excise officials attended the United Nations international conference on drug abuse and illicit trafficking held in June in Vienna. This was attended by 138 countries, most of which agreed on a set of recommendations for further action at national, regional and international level which will be presented to the United Nations commission on narcotic drugs next February. Similarly, the United Kingdom has been an active participant in the intergovernmental group set up by the Economic and Social Committee of the United Nations to consider a new draft convention on drug trafficking and related matters which will enhance co-operation between customs authorities in many areas.

A significant boost to international co-operation was given by the Drug Trafficking Offences Act, which came into force this year. Customs and Excise is in close consultation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which is negotiating bilateral agreements with a number of countries on the confiscation of drug traffickers' assets.

United Kingdom Customs have in recent months assisted in the training of officials from Peru and Bangladesh, and have arranged for drug testing equipment to be made available to Nigeria, Ghana and Bangladesh. In addition, a United Kingdom Customs officer will shortly be going out as training officer to the Caribbean.

Customs and Excise have a total of nine drug liaison officers in post in countries known to be sources or points of transit for drugs. This improves intelligence gathering and assists these countries in their own fight against drugs. It is hoped that two more officers will be in post by next year.

The United Kingdom has continued to support the initiatives of the Customs Co-operation Council in such areas as enforcement training, co-operation with trade and industry and better collation, analysis and dissemination of drugs intelligence. Through the International Maritime Organisation and the International Chamber of Shipping, United Kingdom customs are co-operating with other customs authorities in encouraging these international organisations to recognise and develop the role they can play in the struggle against drug trafficking and abuse.

The commitment of Customs and Excise to international co-operation is exemplified by the recent successful operation in which 208 kg of cocaine, with a street value of £51 million, was seized at Southampton and followed by the arrest of eight people in Holland as a result of close collaboration with the French, German and Dutch authorities.

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