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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, of course I agree with what was said by my noble friend Lord Whitty. In order to prosecute, one must demonstrate a proven intention to break the law and the person to be prosecuted must be available to the United Kingdom courts. A balance has to be struck: are we to use the time of Customs and Excise officers in prosecutions or will we deploy it on greater detection? From the point of view of public health, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, would agree that it is better to use the resources available on detection.
Earl Peel: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House whether Customs and Excise officers are still relying on sniffer dogs to detect illegal meat imports? Further, given the potential for yet another outbreak of foot and mouth disease, which caused such great hardship in the countrysidenever mind the enormous cost to the Governmentcan the Minister say whether a feasibility study into the potential use of modern surveillance equipment has been undertaken? If not, why not? If it has been undertaken, can the Minister tell the House the results of that study?
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on answering a question which his colleague, John Healey, could not respond to in the House of Commons on 10th September. The noble Lord has also provided us with some statistics. Those statistics were produced in the July report and a long time has elapsed since then. The original Question concerned enforcement methods. Can the noble Lord tell us how many enforcement officers are being used? Further, if people are importing illegal meat, what are the penalties for so doing and why have there been no arrests?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have already answered the question of arrests in my response to the supplementary question put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick. As regards the number of people involved in detection, I have referred to the four new mobile teams. Of course, Customs and Excise officers at airports are not engaged only on the detection of illegal meat smuggling. They are involved in a whole range of activities and therefore it would not be possible to give a figure for the number of "full-time equivalents"I think that that is the correct termengaged in this work.
Lord Woolmer of Leeds: My Lords, as regards statistics, how many recorded cases have there been in each of the last three years of problems caused to public health by the illegal importation of meat or other animal products?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, that information is not recorded centrally. Data on food-borne illnesses, at least to human beings, would be recorded by individual National Health Service trusts. No cases have been notified to Customs and Excise.
The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, it is very good news that the number of seizures has increased and is to the credit of Customs and Excise. How many of the seizures in the past year were of concealed commercial imports and how many were of meat carried by individuals trying to bring it illegally into the country?
Baroness Byford: My Lords, is not the Minister concerned that it is total chaos out there? The figures are dreadful, rising from 2,053 seizures in 2001 to 7,819 seizures in 200203. His answer that there have been no convictions will be of no consolation to anyone. I hope that he will at least acknowledge that. The Minister said that it is quite difficult to obtain convictions in this country. What action are the Government taking in co-operation with their colleagues in the countries overseas from which these illegal meats are being brought in? They must surely follow the trail backwards. Is any equivalent work being carried out in those countries overseas?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not agree that it is total chaos out there, to use the noble Baroness's words. The Government are providing £25 million for the years 200305 to tackle illegal imports of meat, other animal products, plants, plant products and foodstuffs. Customs and Excise has received its fair share of that and I have described the methods it is using. Above all, it is a matter of intelligence, and that is the area in which Customs and Excise is collaborating with Defra to ensure that the kind of people who are most likely to import illegal meat from certain parts of the worldthe noble Baroness would not wish me to go into detailare apprehended wherever possible.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government believe that Israel's building of a fence on occupied land is unlawful, but we recognise Israel's legitimate security concerns and deplore the terrorist suicide bombings of Israeli civilians. We have urged the Palestinian Authority to exert greater efforts to stop such bombings. At the same time, we have repeatedly urged the Government of Israel to reconsider the route of the fence. My right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and I have raised this issue on a number of occasions with the Israeli Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and ambassador.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not believe that the road map is a route to nowhere, although the noble Lord qualified what he said by adding that it would become one if Israel went on in this provocative manner. One of the major problems of dealing with this seemingly intractable problem in the Middle East is the apportioning of blamethe desire at every turn to say who began the latest spiral of violence. We believe that the fence is unlawful but we would not so believe if it had been built on the green line. It is the route that the fence has taken that is provocative. It divides Palestinian land and causes real hardship in the everyday life of many Palestinians. The noble Lord should not run away with the idea that the United States has not made many of these points very clear to the Government of Israel, in the same way as we have done.
Lord Janner of Braunstone: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the majority of my family and friends who live in Israel, together with most other Israelis, deeply dislike the security fence? But most of them believe that, sadly, it is absolutely necessary if they are to protect their children and their families and those of other people from being murdered by suicide bombers and other infiltrating assassins.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I hope that many of your Lordships will understand that. It was brought home to me very forcefully when I was in Tel Aviv the other day that the fence itself enjoys widespread support in the Israeli community on both left and right of the spectrumapart from those on the extreme right who are unhappy about the number of settlements left on what they would deem the other side of the fence. It is not the existence of the fence but its routing that is causing so much trouble. If that were to be dealt with in a more sensitive way by the Israeli Government, they would win many friends.
Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar: My Lords, we all know why the American Government vetoed the resolution on the security fence. As the pro-Israeli American columnist, Thomas Friedman, said, President Bush is so far in Sharon's pocket that you cannot even see him now. As we hope the same is not true of our Prime Minister, why did not the Government take into account the sensible remarks that the Minister has
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