Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)



Diana Organ

  20. Obviously, one of the reasons why we chose to have a look at illegal meat imports was because of the concerns we have had about the origins of foot-and-mouth disease in this country last year. You have talked up to now principally about what we would call bush meat. How much of the trade that is illegal is what we might consider to be ordinary meat—lamb, beef, pork—that is coming in for one reason or another? Have you any assessment of the size of that trade, just old meat, spoilt meat, cheap meat—who knows what it is—that is coming in illegally? What you have been talking about in people's personal baggage is monkeys or bush meat or whatever. What sort of size of illegal trade is that, do you think?
  (Mr Brockway) In relation to, say, the Far East trade, you will get three 40-foot containers with a diversity of products of animal origin ranging from chicken feet right through to 1,000-year old eggs; they are non-compliant products but they have a market in the United Kingdom and in Europe. If a product comes into Rotterdam, which is one of the biggest ports, quite clearly the controls there need to equate to ours if, indeed, there is going to be effective control.

  21. That leads me on to the questions that I was set. One of the things that we think is that we are not doing it as well as other Member States in the EU. I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about the powers that enforcement officers have in other Member States and how they differ from ours? Are certain Member States doing this much better and others, maybe, have the same sort of state of laxness that we have?
  (Mr Brockway) To be truthful, I find that very difficult to answer. When the regime first came in in 1992-93 I did go over to Rotterdam to see what actually they did over there at the time and how they were setting up things. I understand there is quite an army of people in that port because they have such a huge trade through there, and 80 per cent of it goes through, as it were, and is not for that country. However, the system is allied to the Customs service, so the two services come together, and I think that is the important point; we need to bring those parties that are in ports and airports together so that we do not duplicate our efforts.

  22. You have said in your paper that you think that the powers of enforcement currently are extremely limited due to the non-implementation of EC Directive 97/78. I wonder if you could tell me is that Directive being enforced in any other Member State, or is it just Britain that is not enforcing it? Is it right across all Member States? How would this Directive make it a better system for us?
  (Mr Brockway) Directive 97/78 has, in actual fact, been translated into the new Product of Animal Origin regulations of 2002, which refer to England. My understanding is that whatever is encompassed within that Directive is now enforced through those regulations in England. It does not apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as we stand today. I understand that Directive 97-78 has already been made into other regulations in other Member States, who are actually enforcing it.

  23. So other Member States within the EU are effectively delivering this Directive, you are saying?
  (Mr Brockway) You mention the word "effectively". I cannot substantiate that either way.
  (Mr Jukes) Chairman, I do not think we can comment on other countries' powers. We have no intelligence on their activities. However, I would comment that they are bound to comply with EU legislation, as indeed we are. Perhaps we do it slightly differently.

  24. My last question on this group is that when stuff is being imported, because we are in the single market, do we look at any imported meat if it is coming from within the EU but which is from outside originally—maybe it is a Far Eastern product that has come into Germany for some processing and then is coming on to us? Do we tend to think "Oh well, the Germans will have dealt with it at the first point of entry, therefore this is okay", or do we treat all imported meat in the same way? Do we have a different tier of operation if it is coming from within the single market?
  (Mr Brockway) If Argentinian meat comes in today to Germany at the border inspection post, if it stays there for longer than seven days—that is, en route to the UK, as it were—it would have to be checked by the Germans, but if it is shipped within six days it can move from the border inspection post in Germany to the likes of Felixstowe where it would be checked. Then it would have the necessary certificate of veterinary clearance to allow it to move, after it has been checked, around Member States. It is like a passport that follows it around.

  25. But if it has been checked initially by another Member State, we just do not look at it?
  (Mr Brockway) No, it would not need to be looked at unless you had grounds for suspicion. The OVS can actually stop the consignment, the authorised officer can look at the consignment if they have grounds for suspecting that it is non-compliant.

Mr Mitchell

  26. Diana asked about the foot-and-mouth infection and talked of carcasses—lamb, beef, whatever. You indicated that that comes in through containers. Is there a distinction between dangerous, possibly infection-carrying, stuff coming in in containers and the kind of stuff that is being carried by passengers, particularly from Africa or the Far East?
  (Mr Brockway) The situation is that there is a problem in both camps. The problem is in relation to the person coming through Heathrow with whatever in their bags, and there is the person who is actually putting non-compliant goods in the container that are coming from non-complaint establishments.

  27. What are you saying? That the stuff that is likely to carry foot-and-mouth, which is the start of our inquiry, is more likely to come in in a container than in a pudding basin carried by Mrs Bloggs from Nigeria?
  (Mr Brockway) Certainly we have found in containers dried meat that has come from Saudi Arabia.

  28. And?
  (Mr Brockway) The risks are potentially there.

  29. Just looking at your document, there is a marvellous photograph of illegal imports taken from one flight. I cannot imagine folk staggering on to a 'plane with great boxes and plastic bags. It must be pretty smelly by the time it gets here, anyway. What is the motive?
  (Mr Brockway) The motive is there is a demand in the UK to be satisfied.

  30. Is there a big profit on it? Is it for family consumption or is it to be sold?
  (Mr Jukes) It is to be sold.

  31. It is very profitable to sell it?
  (Mr Jukes) Very profitable.

  32. At the start you said they are allowed to bring in a personal allowance of animal products.
  (Mr Jukes) One kilogram.

  33. That is all?
  (Mr Jukes) They are being allowed to bring in basketfuls.

Diana Organ

  34. They are allowed one kilogram?
  (Mr Jukes) They are allowed one kilogram.

Mr Mitchell

  35. Is that of anything?
  (Mr Jukes) One kilogram of substance—meats—for personal use and two kilograms of non—

  36. So the one kilogram they carry in their personal luggage is compliant.
  (Mr Jukes) Allegedly.

  37. But the 25 kilograms they are carrying in a—
  (Mr Jukes) They should be stopped at the point of boarding the 'plane.

  38. Even though it is the same stuff?
  (Mr Jukes) It should be stopped, but it is not.


  39. Why should it be stopped?
  (Mr Jukes) It should be stopped at the point of departure. We had a significant meeting at the Chartered Institute a few days ago where we had port health officers from Gatwick as well as Heathrow. They were indicating that they had actually received personal threats when they witnessed going to places in the Far East and trying to video what was going on. They were physically moved out of the way while, again, it is alleged that officials were actually helping people to pack this stuff on.

  Mr Mitchell: It is fair to say I had the same experience at a Spanish fish market when looking for small fish.


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