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Illegally Imported Meat

Volume 401: debated on Tuesday 18 March 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much illegally imported meat has been seized at UK ports and airports in each of the last three years, broken down by (a) type and (b) location. [102158]

A central database of illegal animal product seizures notified to Defra was set up in August 2001, with detailed data going back to April 2001. Little or no data is held centrally for 2000.The numbers and weights of meat seizures at UK ports and airports reported to us in each of the last three years is shown below. A detailed breakdown of locations of seizures is not provided in order to protect operational details of targeted checks.

Number of seizuresWeight of seizures (kg)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what arrangements there are with (a) Customs and Excise and (b) the Food Standards Agency (i) to prevent and (ii) to detect illegally imported meat entering the UK. [102159]

Currently the Port Health Authorities, Local Authorities and the State Veterinary Service lead on enforcement of controls for detecting smuggled meat. They are supported in this by Customs, who deployed extra resources in this role in 2002. Defra has been funding additional enforcement activity this financial year through temporary Local Authority staff and overtime.Following the Cabinet Office review of enforcement structures, responsibility for all anti-smuggling activity is to be transferred to HM Customs as soon as practicable, and we are working on a Service Level Agreement. Defra has been leading on implementing the Government's action plan, including a risk assessment, detector dog pilot and design of publicity material. Customs have been providing support. A comprehensive centralised database of seizures has been set up to share information and inform decisions on the targeting of resources.The Food Standards Agency is an independent agency accountable to an independent board, with responsibility for food safety matters. It co-ordinates the activities of Local Authorities, including Port Health Authorities, on food safety matters and has lead policy responsibility for controls at the border on products of non-animal origin and fish. The Agency is concerned with checks to verify compliance with food safety standards, and has produced a 10-point plan in relation to imported food, including illegal food imports. The Agency is also working closely with Defra on the action plan.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what resources she is committing (a) to prevent and (b) detect illegally imported meat entering the UK; [102160](2) what resources she is committing

(a) to prevent and (b) to detect illegally imported meat entering the UK. [102161]

The Government have made available a total of £25 million over the next three financial years to tackle illegal imports from outside the European Union of any meat, other animal products and plant products. Final decisions on the allocation of this money in 2003–04 will be made shortly.In the current financial year, additional measures have been introduced at ports and airports to tackle illegal imports. Temporary agency staff, funded by Defra, have been recruited to carry out checks to detect smuggled goods—teams of six are based at our major airports and teams of two at major seaports. We are also paying for additional checks through overtime elsewhere. Further inspection resources have also been provided through the detector dog pilot, and a publicity campaign which has targeted ports, airports and points of departure.We expect to lay the legislation shortly, under which HM Customs will take over responsibility for detection, intelligence and enforcement with regard to illegal food imports.