Select Committee on European Scrutiny Tenth Report





Initiative of the Kingdom of Sweden with a view to the adoption of a Council Decision establishing a system of special forensic profiling analysis of synthetic drugs.

Initiative of the Kingdom of Sweden with a view to the adoption of a Council Decision on the transmission of samples of illegal narcotic substances.

Explanatory memorandum related to two Swedish initiatives in the field of drugs.

Legal base: Articles 30, 31 and 34(2)(c) EU; consultation; unanimity
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 20 March 2001
Previous Committee Report: HC 28-vi (2000-01), paragraph 5 (14 February 2001)
To be discussed in Council: May 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: (All) Cleared


  11.1  These two Swedish initiatives aim to improve the analysis of synthetic drugs and the pooling by Member States at EU level of police and forensic information in order to target production sites and distribution networks for synthetic drugs in Europe. Documents (a) and (b) are draft Decisions addressing, respectively, the profiling analysis of drugs and the transmission of samples. Document (c) is an explanatory memorandum covering both proposals.

  11.2  When we last considered these documents (in February), we left them uncleared. We asked the Minister for a full explanation of the benefits to be gained from the proposals, since her Explanatory Memorandum had not convinced us that these would outweigh the extra cost and administrative effort involved in implementing them.

The Minister's letter

  11.3  The Minister has now written to us with much fuller information about the proposals. She begins by telling us about the scale of the problem in the UK, saying:

"'Global Illicit Drug Trends 2000' published by the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention showed that in 1997-98 the greatest weight of seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants was in the UK and the British Crime Survey 1998 showed levels of 'last month' use of amphetamine and Ecstasy among 16-29 year olds at levels of 4% and1% of the general population. We believe that these figures and the harms which the drugs can do warrant innovative methods for reducing supply to the United Kingdom. The problems are also apparent in Europe and there is some evidence that Europe is acting as an exporter of these drugs to the United States."

  11.4  The Minister then explains the rationale for the proposals and the reasons for the transmission of samples. She tells us:

"Under the initiative samples of seized amphetamine and amphetamine derivatives would be analysed so as to establish whether the seized drugs came from a particular batch and whether seizures from the same batch had been made elsewhere. The results would be made available both to the seizing authority and Europol. The information, with any other available intelligence, would enable a better idea to be gained about the sources of these drugs and transmission routes, enabling the enforcement authorities to target their efforts more effectively. The United Kingdom enforcement authorities all support the initiative.

"Thresholds will be set in order that sufficient numbers of seizures are analysed but not too many. The ultimate intention is that countries should be able to undertake the necessary analyses within their own countries using standardised techniques so that the results are comparable. That would obviate the need for samples to be transmitted between different Member States. However, scientific advice is that that is not possible at the moment and that for results to be comparable, tests on a particular type of drug have to be done by one forensic laboratory. It is this situation which leads to the need to transmit samples."

  11.5  On the question of costs, the Minister says:

"The Drug Trafficking Working Party has not yet resolved how the costs should be met. The Presidency's original suggestion was that Member States should meet their own costs, including the costs of running a forensic laboratory if one was located in their country. The Group does not regard that as very satisfactory and the Presidency is therefore exploring the possibility of securing EU funding for the project. As it is there is not yet an estimate of costs: these will depend on the number of analyses undertaken (which in turn will depend on the thresholds which are set), transmission costs and on the analytical costs themselves."

  11.6  Finally, the Minister tells us that the proposals offer the possibility of securing information which is not available by other means. This information will mainly be used to support activities against supply but it may also shed light on amphetamine and amphetamine-derivative production and movements.


  11.7  The Minister's letter provides the explanation we requested, and makes her own support for the proposals more explicit. We now clear all the documents.

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