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Customs Confidential Hotline

Volume 405: debated on Monday 19 May 2003

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To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many (a) phone calls and (b) e-mails have been received by the Customs Confidential hotline since its inception, broken down by category of alleged offence. [113358](2) what proportion of the

(a) phone calls and (b) e-mails received by the Customs Confidential hotline since its inception produced information on which HM Customs could act. [113359]

The Customs Confidential Hotline has only existed in its current format since May 2002. Prior to this paper records were kept, and the information requested could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.Since May 2002, 17,530 telephone calls have been processed, along with 832 e-mails and 341 Freepost letters. Additionally, 1,083 phone calls received (6.2 per cent.) are classed as wrong numbers, obscene or time wasting calls.In the past year, 18,703 pieces of information have been passed to Customs teams. Other Government Departments (OGDs) and to the police for consideration of further action.

Many of these pieces of information are low-level intelligence which form part of a wider picture and need to be considered in that context; it is not always possible to determine immediately how useful this information is, and it is not possible to provide robust data on the correlation between information received by Customs and subsequent action taken by them.

The approximate breakdown of the 18,703 pieces of information processed is given in the table.

Category

Proportion of pieces of information processed percentage

VAT related34.2
Tobacco27.4
Alcohol18.0
Oils10.4
Drugs4.8
Other (OGD/Police)2.3
Criminal Finances0.6
Counterfeit Goods0.6
Gambling Taxes0.3
Pornography (inc Paedophilia)0.3
Firearms0.1
Other Prohibitions and Restrictions1.0

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many (a) arrests and (b) convictions have been attributable to information received by the Customs Confidential hotline since its inception; and what the costs of operating the Customs Confidential hotline were in the last 12 months for which figures are available. [113360]

The Customs Confidential Hotline has only existed in its current format since May 2002. Prior to this paper records were kept and the information requested could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.The costs of operating the Customs Confidential Hotline are estimated to be £12,500 a year for the free telephone hotline (0800 59 5000) and 6 staff years.In the last year information from the Customs Confidential Hotline has contributed to a number of operations across the country. However, it is not possible to provide robust data on correlation between information received by Customs and subsequent arrests and convictions.