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Illegally Imported Foodstuffs

Mr. Drew: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the responsibilities of Customs and Excise officers who enforce border inspection rules, with particular reference to illegally imported meat and other foodstuffs. [158448]

Dawn Primarolo: There are two main aspects to Customs role at the UK's border: processing declarations of commercial consignments being moved into and out of the country; and detecting attempts to evade the prohibitions and restrictions on items being moved either commercially or privately.

Commercial imports and exports of goods from or to locations outside the European Union must be declared to Customs to help ensure any revenues due are properly accounted for and that restrictions are complied with. Declarations of meat and meat products are identified from Customs systems and referred to a MAFF approved border inspection post. The goods are only released from Customs control on receipt of notification from the border inspection post that any necessary checks are complete.

Customs detection activity at the border is focused on finding and dealing with irregularities across the full range of contrabands; these include controlled drugs, high revenue items such as alcohol and tobacco, cash linked to drug trafficking, paedophile pornography and illicit weapons. When the detection systems find travellers carrying meat products outside the MAFF allowance (one kilogram of cooked meat products in a sealed container) the material is seized and disposed of in accordance with procedures agreed with MAFF and the local port health authority.

Church Repairs (VAT)

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will zero-rate church repairs for VAT. [158224]

Dawn Primarolo: The Chancellor announced in his Budget that he is introducing a UK-wide grant scheme to help with the cost of repairing listed places of worship. The effect of the grant will be to reduce the VAT cost to 5 per cent. for new work undertaken from 1 April 2001.