Courts to confiscate drug traffickers' passports

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Drug traffickers will lose their passports under plans proposed by Drugs Tsar Keith Hellawell today.

Drug traffickers will lose their passports under plans proposed by Drugs Tsar Keith Hellawell today.

Launching his second national plan to fight drugs, Mr Hellawell said courts should be able to confiscate passports following a conviction.

"If people are trafficking drugs and bringing them into the country surely they should have their passports taken away," he said.

Paul Evans, Customs and Excise Chief Investigation Officer, welcomed the idea, saying: "I'm for any idea that makes life for the traffickers more difficult."

The proposal, currently being discussed by ministers and officials, was also backed by the Conservatives.

But plans to increase spending on the treatment of addicts at the expense of efforts to get drugs off the streets were attacked by Tory spokesman Andrew Lansley.

Cabinet Office minister Mo Mowlam, who has special responsibility for drugs, joined Mr Hellawell to launch the up-date of the Government's 10-year anti-drugs strategy.

It included limited details of how the extra cash for the anti-drugs fund, unveiled by Chancellor Gordon Brown last week, would be spent.

Overall, funds will rise from £695 million this financial year to £996 million in 2003/4.

Spending on treatment for addicts will rise by £167 million over the next three years to £401 million.

At the same time initiatives to keep drugs off the streets will be increased by just £27 million to £380 million.

Ms Mowlam, speaking at Custom House in central London, insisted the measures represented the best way of tackling the problem.

"We have a dual-track approach," she said.

"We are cutting supply and demand by hitting the traffickers and increasing treatment."

But Mr Lansley said the money would be better spent targeting dealers.

"The Government talks a lot about dealing with the problems at source, but spending is overwhelmingly on the treatment of offenders," he said.

"The Government should now accept Conservative proposals cracking down on those who deal drugs to children."

However, the approach was backed by Roger Howard, chief executive of DrugScope, who said it was "long over due and very welcome".

"This approach is backed up by evidence that shows for every pound you spend treating an addict the tax payers gets three pounds back, mostly through crime reduction," he said.

Ms Mowlam and Mr Hellawell both said the boost for treatment, to be overseen by the new National Treatment Agency, came alongside a range of measures to cut drugs supply.

International co-operation would be stepped up further to prevent drugs reaching UK shores.

Increased co-operation between Customs, police and the security services would mean more effective action against dealers and traffickers.

Mr Hellawell denied the Government's strategy was not working and said strict targets, such as a 25% reduction in the availability of class A drugs by 2005, were achievable.

"We are making progress but we are under no illusion we have a long way to go which is why we have a 10 year plan," Ms Mowlam added.