Examination of Witnesses (Questions 77-79)
MR BEN GILL, MR MICHAEL SEALS AND MS ELIZABETH HOGBEN
TUESDAY 18 JUNE 2002
77. Let me welcome members of the NFU. Mr Gill, would you introduce your colleagues?
(Mr Gill) Thank you very much, Chairman. I am Ben Gill, President of the NFU of England and Wales, a farmer from North Yorkshire involved in arable and livestock production. I have with me Michael Seals, the chairman of our Food Standards Committee, a farmer from the county of Derbyshire
78. South Derbyshire.
(Mr Gill) I am sorry. I did not realise there were two counties in Derbyshire! I thought that only referred to Sussex and Yorkshire. On my left is Elizabeth Hogben, who is our Food Science Adviser, and has been heavily involved in all the evidence we put together on this subject.
79. I am grateful to you for coming because the NFU have pursued this campaign fairly vigorously over the past year. You have been sitting at the back of the room and heard our previous witnesses. Did you share their view? Have you any evidence that there are organised crime networks involved in this?
(Mr Gill) You may be aware that in January of this year, in the absence of any effective co-ordination from official government circles, we took the decision to call together ourselves all the interested government agencies for a meeting in our offices here in London. Much to my surprise just about everybody attendedindeed, there were those who we missed off the list who sought to attend as well and furthermore, much to our surprise, we found that once the initial positions-taking had been got past, they found it was useful to exchange information and it became very clear that there was organised crime from some of the people in attendance from Heathrow in particular, the Heathrow Users' Committee, and from some of the companies involved in the imports of products through Heathrow, particularly from certain countries in the world, where the trade was likened to the drug trade when mule carriers were used and hence it was very difficult to prosecute because they had no financial interest in the product that was being brought in and they would simply melt into the night if they were caught and abandoned the luggage. Indeed, I seem to recollect at that time we were told, furthermore, that at other sea ports there were a number of containers that nobody would own up to owning because they had been found to contain illegal product, so we were acutely aware that some of these domestic imports, distinguishing between domestic and commercial, were going into Brixton market, and I seem to remember at another time in this place the Chairman of your full Committee suggested I might visit Brixton market but did not offer to give me protection when I went down there!