Supplementary note by HM Customs and Excise
REPLIES BY THE CHAIRMAN OF HM CUSTOMS AND
EXCISE TO QUESTIONS POSED BY THE CLERK OF THE COMMITTEE
Thank you for your letter of 2 August. I am pleased
to let you have the answers to your questions.
What substantive discussions has Customs had with
port authorities concerning the installation of x-ray machines
for the detection of smuggled tobacco and other contraband?
All major port operators (including trade representative
bodies such as the UK Major Ports Group and the British Ports
Association) were notified in writing of the Government's intention
to deploy a network of x-ray scanners in accordance with the recommendation
contained in the report into tobacco smuggling by Martin Taylor.
This has been followed up by direct meetings with the port operators
for the sites which are likely to be the first recipients of these
scanners. The programme of meetings will continue as the network
Does Customs have an interest in the TRANSEC "Free
Screening Working Group", which is working towards screening
TRANSECTransport Securityis a
section of the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions
(DETR). We have been monitoring the work of this group, which
is of significant interest to us in the light of our increasing
use of scanners. We are therefore discussing increasing our involvement
in TRANSEC with DETR.
What plans does Customs have to increase the proportion
of freight vehicles searched at Channel ports?
The planned deployment of a network of x-ray
scanners at a number of ports will enable Customs to increase
the number of freight vehicles checked without having to have
the load physically examined. Physical searches should then only
be carried out where the x-ray scan shows unexplained anomalies
or on the basis of intelligence.
Due to operational problems associated with searching
various types of freight, is fresh produce cargo less likely to
be subject to routine or profiled examination?
Freight is not examined routinely for anti-smuggling
controls. The selection of cargo for examination is based on a
number of factors including the origin and routing of the shipment,
any information known about the consignor or consignee, and intelligence
received or developed by Departmental systems. The type of cargo
involved may be taken into consideration, but it is the overall
perception of risk, rather than the specific nature of the cargo
which would influence selection for examination.
What arrangements exist at present locally and
nationally for the discussion of issues with port authorities
and all agencies operating at ports?
Arrangements vary from port to port, but at
each place there are routine contacts between Customs and the
port authorities to discuss matters of mutual interest and concern.
Similarly, local arrangements exist for agencies to meet and discuss
relevant issues on an inter-agency basis and involving port operators
when appropriate. A Border Agencies Working Group exists as a
national forum for development of common approaches to specific
issues for Customs, Immigration and ports Special Branch policing.
Other agencies are increasingly involved in the work of this group.
What plans does the Government have to extend
CCTV operations at Channel ports?
There are no specific cross-agency plans to
extend closed circuit television systems at Channel ports. The
border agencies are working together to share equipment, including
CCTV, wherever that is practicable. As systems become ready for
replacement, the agencies are preparing joint approaches to issues
such as the siting of cameras to support the objectives of closer
working and maximising efficiency.
What arrangements exist for Customs to share profiling
information with the Immigration Service and with Special Branch?
The exchange of information between Customs
and the Immigration Service/Special Branch is currently only legally
permissible on a case-by-case basis. New legislation, the Immigration
and Asylum Act, has provided a statutory gateway for the exchange
of bulk data between the Immigration Service and Customs. As part
of the consultation process on forthcoming legislation in this
area, Customs have sought similar gateway provisions to allow
exchange with Special Branch and other agencies. This will allow
profiles to be researched, built and exchanged.
In what circumstances do the Immigration Service
and Special Branch have access to the Customs OASIS database and
the Ferry Information Service?
Immigration and Special Branch have no direct
access to Customs OASIS systems (which includes the Ferry Information
Service). There is, however, a facility whereby Customs accept
requests for information from these two bodies on a case-specific
basis (ie requests for information regarding the movements of
specific individuals and/or vehicles). The statutory gateways
referred to in the previous answer will provide scope for exploring
other options which Customs will consider along with Immigration
Service and Special Branch.
What plans do you have to share passenger information
supplied by carriers?
will this involve the loan of computer
systems and equipment by carriers to Customs?
The Immigration and Asylum Act allows the Immigration
Service to obtain passenger manifest information from carriers
for immigration purposes, and creates a statutory gateway between
the Immigration Service and Customs for the routine disclosure
of this information.
On occasions when one border agency subjects travellers
and/or vehicles to a thorough examination, what arrangements exist
to invite other border agencies to attend and thus avoid duplication
of examination procedures?
A number of localised practical agreements are
in place, which take account of the facilities and needs of the
respective agencies. For example, the forward selection point,
traffic management lanes and examination bays in Dover are now
all operated on a multi-agency basis, enabling more efficient
and effective use of the facilities, and of the agencies' resources.
To what extent are the daily border agencies'
operations at the SE ports co-ordinated?
The work of the agencies is co-ordinated to
a significant extent through the use of joint intelligence, the
sharing of equipment and facilities, and by local agreements.
However, each agency has its specific aims, objectives and legal
powers which must drive its operational activity.
Are there plans for a joint border agencies' intelligence
unit for the SE ports?
A joint intelligence cell is already operating
in Dover. Examples of good practice from this cell (and others
operating away from the SE ports) are being disseminated to the
relevant agencies and should influence the setting up of similar
cells as well as supporting less formal arrangements.
Is the inter-departmental strategy group formed
following the Simpler Trades Procedures (SIMPRO) ports report,
and jointly chaired by Customs and DTI, still in being? What are
this group's objectives?
In the replies above I have sought to provide
answers based on the work that this department undertakes to address
smuggling. There are other activities which require regulatory
checks on declared goods, which Customs undertakes on behalf of
other departments or agencies. I have taken these regulatory matters
to be outwith the scope of this Inquiry. I can, however, provide
further information on these if the Committee would find it helpful.
This last question relates to the work of a strategic group which
has a broad interest in all aspects of the international trade
The Interdepartmental Strategy Group on Trade
Facilitation, formed in 1998, is chaired jointly by DTI and Customs.
Membership includes all those departments and agencies with a
significant interest in the international movement of goods; the
Simpler Trade Procedures Board (SITPRO) is also a member. The
objective of the Group is to optimise government departments'
collaborative approach to trade facilitation in line with the
UK's trade policy and Customs' administrative requirements while
taking full account both of the justification of any underlying
controls, and of reducing burdens on business. This is to be met
examining the scope for abolishing,
reducing, harmonising or otherwise simplifying domestic trade
identifying and agreeing ways for
maximising the application of electronic commerce techniques;
considering the feasibility of, and
agreeing options for, introducing a "single point of contact"
for international trade information;
contributing to the UK approach on
international trade facilitation issues.
The Group has now endorsed the introduction
of a single point of contact (now called the Single Window) and
streamlining data collection and the exchange of information between
government departments and agencies. A project has now been set
up under Customs' leadership, and other departments have been
asked to confirm their commitment and to contribute resources.
19 September 2000