Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 5 November 2009

For the first two days of this week I was doing drugs in the Netherlands. I should explain that it as a Home Affairs select committee visit as part of our current enquiry into the cocaine trade. It has been both fascinating and harrowing.
Why come to Holland? First of all being such an international port much of the trade in narcotics that streams into Europe does so through this European neighbour. Secondly, it is estimated that most airports apprehend about 14% of passengers passing through with drugs in their luggage or body, whereas in Schipol Airport, Amsterdam they claim a strike rate of 30%.
It was unnerving to watch the process whereby passengers are suspected and then scanned for swallowing little packages of cocaine in an attempt to smuggle them into the country. We saw x-ray shots of where people, called mules, had swallowed as much as 100 of these packages, each one the size of a lipstick container. Once arrested, they are taken to cells with special toilets that catch this prized waste as evidence for prosecution. We learnt a lot from a very impressive set of officers.
Then we went to a coffee shop – a euphemism for a place you can buy and smoke cannabis. In this crazy world in which we live the Dutch have banned tobacco smoking in public places, but in these establishments you can smoke cannabis. We learnt that this great experiment is failing. It has not kept people away from hard drugs. The government is slowly closing these places down.
Then we saw the thousands of containers pouring into Rotterdam and the techniques used to try and spot those containing illicit drugs. Needles and haystacks came to mind.
My mother thinks that we MPs should not travel anywhere but do it all on the phone and Internet, thus saving the taxpayer money. But we saw things on this visit which will help us shape a report that might just improve the way we do things in this country to try and stamp out this lucrative but deadly trade. No country in the world has done this successfully and perhaps the demand is so great, the profits so massive that it cannot be done.
But with better education, more protection of our flimsy borders, betters use of technology and shared information, we have to try to prevent the evil of drugs ripping even more young lives and families to pieces.

posted by Gary @ 08:53