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Organised Crime

Volume 563: debated on Wednesday 5 June 2013

9. What assessment she has made of the co-operation between the UK and Irish Governments on tackling organised crime. (157243)

Organised crime in Northern Ireland is naturally devolved, but we work very closely with the Irish Government, and so do the devolved Assembly and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Organised criminals account for 10% of the cigarettes imported into the UK from the island of Ireland. What discussions has the Minister had with Departments here in the UK and with his counterparts in the island of Ireland, and what impact, if any, would plain packaging have on the illicit trade?

Like fuel smuggling, cigarette smuggling is a serious problem, not least because of where the profits go—we know that some go into terrorist activities. I work closely and meet regularly with HMRC and we will meet again soon, but at the end of the day we must make sure that when we get the smugglers, they are prosecuted correctly and get the right sort of sentence.

Is the Secretary of State telling the House today that she is content with the delay in the implementation of the invitations to make submissions procedure between Customs and Excise in the Republic and HMRC in Northern Ireland? The delay is frustrating the security services, putting billions of pounds into the hands of criminals and, importantly, assisting organised crime. What is she going to do about it?

Speaking on behalf of the Secretary of State in answering this question, let me say that we are doing everything we possibly can. Are we frustrated? Yes, we are. Are the police frustrated? Yes, they are. But we have to make sure that the system is robust and legal, and we will get there.