Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Seventh Report

Illegal Imports: Government Action Plan[105]


The Illegal Imports programme aim is to:

Reduce the risk of exotic animal and plant disease entering the country and then threatening our public health, and livestock, agriculture and horticulture industries

The key elements of the programme are:

  • Risk assessment ­ to inform decisions about the nature of the risks from imports (personal and commercial), and where are the critical points for taking action. As recommended by the Policy Commission on Food and Farming, a thorough risk assessment of meat imports led by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency is underway. Results will start to be available from May. More data is needed to inform this process. External stakeholder groups will be established to help inform and guide the risk assessment process. Targeted sample checks will be undertaken, in agreement with the enforcement agencies involved, where necessary to establish relevant risks.

  • Co­operation between agencies ­ the central and local government agencies involved in importation of food and other goods are working closely together to achieve effective inter­agency co­ordination of checks. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will provide a published guide on the roles, responsibilities and powers of relevant agencies for preventing and detecting illegal consignments of products of animal origin.

  • Effective intelligence ­ to improve targeting of anti­smuggling measures. Action has already been taken to strengthen intelligence gathering and sharing between enforcement agencies. External stakeholder groups are being established to assist the Government in this work.

  • Legal powers ­ enforcement officers will be given new powers (already available to customs officers) in April to search baggage, etc for illegal imports of meat.

  • European action ­ work with European authorities to clarify and potentially tighten enforcement of rules on third country imports reaching the United Kingdom via other European Union member states; and to reform rules on personal imports.

  • Publicity ­ for the United Kingdom's rules on imports of animal and plant products, and the reasons for them. As results from the risk assessment and current market research on consumer impact come in, discussions will continue with representatives of airlines and others about how they can help.

  • Deterrence ­ work to ensure both a greater awareness of the consequences of bringing illegal food imports into the United Kingdom in terms of information to passengers and shippers; and, taking account of the risk assessment, to establish the appropriate level and type of checks, and effective penalties.

Other specific measures will include:

  • Pilot use of detector dogs to be underway by summer 2002

  • Examination of the potential benefits of using x­ray equipment to scan containers and personal baggage to detect illegal imports, leading if successful to a trial.

  • Provision of 'amnesty' bins or equivalent measure to encourage the surrender of unintended illegal personal imports.

  • Landing card ­ pursue with interested parties possible amendment to the landing card to draw attention to import prohibitions.

  • Research into available technologies which might help detect illegal imports.

Following the successful Illegal Imports Forum chaired by the Secretary of State of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs on 21 March, leading stakeholders and interest groups in the private sector and local government are committed to supporting this work, and will be closely associated with work affecting their interests, or where they have expertise to offer.

105   Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs News Release, 127/02, Illegal Imports: Government Action Plan published, see: . Back

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