Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160-176)
TUESDAY 2 JULY 2002
160. So he is a member of the Port Health Authority?
(Mr Young) Absolutely, yes. He liaises with Customs
to check their availability. We have also, to try and keep it
as joined up as possible, had the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate
in on some of them as well.
161. So one of your colleagues rings round and
says "Is it possible? Have you got people available on this
(Mr Young) That is exactly how it works, yes.
162. You act on the basis of some intelligence,
really, that these are the flights where you think there might
(Mr Young) Yes.
163. What good is all this, because on the other
335 days a year there is no check at all?
(Mr Young) That is absolutely right, but I think we
are realistic in knowing that whatever resources you put in you
will never stop every single illegal import coming into the countryany
more than the smuggling of any other goods has ever been able
to be stopped. I think what it does do is it raises the profile
with the travelling public that they may well be subject to checks
as they come in, and, in fact, that it is illegal to bring the
products in, which I do not think the travelling public realise
well enough at the moment.
164. There appears to be no penalty, at the
(Mr Young) There is no penalty at the moment, other
than a prosecution.
165. On how many of these 30 days did you take
out prosecutions on individuals?
(Mr Young) On none of them.
166. There was no prosecution at all?
(Mr Young) No.
167. As it happens, I have just got a letter
from the Minister about this and, amongst other things, he says
"We recognise that public awareness of our controls must
be improved, both in this country and abroad". How do you
think that could be done?
(Mr Young) They have already been doing some things.
They have produced posters that have gone up at all the airports
now in the arrivals areas and baggage reclaims. Those posters
are up. I think, also, there is a lot more work that could be
done with the airlines themselves. All the people coming in are
the customers of the airlines and I think the airlinesand
possibly even travel organisationscould have a role in
ensuring that people are aware of the controls. They do on duty-free
allowances so why not for products of animal origin?
168. So it would not be a very difficult thing
to do, you do not think?
(Mr Young) I do not envisage it would be terribly
difficult, provided that the airlines are prepared to come on
169. Posters are a good thingand a few
amnesty bins. Would that be a major problem to organise?
(Mr Young) I do not think actually providing the bins
would be a major problem, but there may be other issues that might
it make it more difficult in terms of security and what else might
get thrown in amnesty bins.
170. You check everything going on to the aircraft;
we go through the most extraordinary procedures now before we
get on, with the luggage and the people and everything else. Assuming,
therefore, that everything has been checked before it goes on,
it would be pretty extraordinary if they managed to then take
something off and throw something with some security problem into
a bin. All I am trying to say is that what those of us who have
been abroad recently have felt to be pretty common-sense, pretty
simple and hardly the most costly, things could be done and could
be introduced without the paraphernalia of great discussions etc.
We are talking about some nice big posters and a few bins which
should, at least, make some contribution to telling people that
if they are accidentally bringing something in which they did
not realise, they could then be warned about the fact and dispose
of it before they actually get through. That, to my mind, seems
very, very simple, very, very cheap and could be introduced like
that! Still, here, after all these months, we are still thinking
about it, we are still wondering "Is it a good idea".
I just want you to tell me that you think there is no great problem
in doing it.
(Mr Young) I would agree with you that, on the face
of it, it does seem a very simple thing to do and could be introduced
very quickly. All I would say is that I do know that airports
and the aviation industry in general is a very, very complex industry,
and to get any poster of any sort up at an airport, with so many
different companies involved, is actually more complicated than
it at first seems.
171. I am sorry for coming in late and apologise
if you have covered this. I just wonder, do you actually inspect
the export of goods or the export of people in the hope that that
would also happen in other parts of the world? I think the trouble
with this is that if you just rely on trying to stop people coming
into the country, it may be that you are missing the trick at
least in having a double searchie, a search at the point
of exit. Plus, there is a fair chance that information is going
to be much more readily available within your country as against
from what is coming from without. I just wonder what happens in
terms of seeing who is going out of the country and what are they
going out with before they get to another country? Do you do that
sort of thing?
(Mr Bloomfield) No.
172. Not at all?
(Mr Bloomfield) No. Legal exports of animal products
are very strictly controlled: they are certified by official veterinary
surgeons and they are sealed in containers using numbered seals,
so those sorts of legal exports are very closely controlled, but
in terms of checking people's baggage it does not happen.
173. Yet if we actually instituted that we could
go elsewhere in the world and say "We are doing our bit."
I think the problem with this is that, with the best will in the
world, when someone is coming into the country they want to get
into the country, they have been waiting, they have had a long
journey and they want to get through as soon as possible, so you
are going to miss an awful lot of people. There is more opportunity
to get people as they are exiting. I just wondered if there is
any other country that does this and tries to search as people
go rather than as they come in.
(Mr Bloomfield) I think only for security reasons.
I have certainly never been checked for food that I was taking
out of the country. I have been checked on other issues in terms
of baggage going out, as we probably all have, but I have never
been checked for food.
174. Likewise you could, if you had a voluntary
code, say "If you have got any foodstuff, please get rid
of it now". The second issue is one I have asked other people
about and I am just intrigued. Your responsibilities also travel
as far as minor ports and minor airports. You may have covered
this, but give us a feel for the additional problems. Heathrow,
Gatwick and even Stansted are busy thoroughfares, as indeed are
the main Channel ports, but you have got a lot of other ports
and a lot of other airports where potentially people are coming
in and out. How do you operate to make sure that people are not
bringing illegal stuff through them?
(Mr Averns) It is a problem at smaller airports. Perhaps
I can mention London City Airport, which I have responsibility
for, and which is not, as I said earlier, a border inspection
post. We do not get any direct flights from outside Europe, but
nevertheless people transit other European airports and are still
able to bring in illegal products from third countries. Likewise,
I think in some of the other smaller airports which do not have
so many long-haul flights, they are still getting this problem.
It is a resource issue for us to be able to examine or to inspect
items coming in on those flights.
175. So is it fair to say that if we really
hammered down on the big points of entry, we would still potentially,
through people moving to less well-protected points of entry,
not have any idea of the scale, because if someone is going to
do something illegal and they know that Heathrow is a potential
place where the risks begin to rise as a result of all the things
going on, they obviously look to a weaker part of the defensive
wall, and that is something, unless we protect that, where we
are basically making very little difference?
(Mr Averns) That is quite right. It happens with all
types of imports, whether it be imported meat or imported foods;
they will always try and look for the weakest point. The Association
tries to co-ordinate our activities throughout the country.
(Mr Bloomfield) There is another way of looking at
that. If you want to hide you go and hide in a crowd rather than
stand on your own. So that if you were trying to bring something
in you might bring it in through somewhere that was really busy,
on the basis that they would not have as much time to spend looking
at your consignment.
176. That has been extremely helpful. What I
think you have told us is that there is a problem, you have give
us some indication of the scale of the problem, you have told
us that the co-ordination is getting better and progress is being
made. There is a set of issues about powers that you have got,
there is, perhaps, an even bigger set of issues about the resources
that are available and how those are made available and a set
of issues around co-ordination as well. I think that is most helpful.
You have promised to let us have one of those lovely blue folders.
That is really good of you. If there is anything you have not
said to us that you think we ought to knowperhaps on the
Tube on the way home you think "I should have told them that"can
you get back to us very quickly indeed. Thanks to all three of
(Mr Bloomfield) Thank you very much.
(Mr Young) Thank you.