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John Healey: In a moment I shall say something about where the mobile teams will be based; but their existence means that more officers, not fewer, will be available to cover the threats from Cornwall, and they will not be based solely in the south-east.
Results from the flexible teams already deployed speak for themselves. In 200203, one mobile team from the south-west, when deployed to a high-risk port or airport, typically seized 2 million cigarettes. Over the same period, three teams permanently based in Plymouth and Falmouth seized only 0.4 million cigarettes between them. In future, flexible teams
Therefore, alongside the deployment of more mobile detection teams across the UK, Customs is investing heavily to increase its intelligence capabilitynew methods, modern techniques and more staff. It is reinforcing intelligence links with other agencies and setting up new joint intelligence cells with police special branch and immigration staff. Customs already operates such joint intelligence cells in the south-west, based in Plymouth and Exeter.
I can today confirm that, to reinforce its intelligence cover in Cornwall, Customs will be setting up a dedicated unit of three officers in Falmouth. Those Cornish officers will link with other law enforcement agencies to monitor the threat from smuggling and fraud in Cornwall. They will play an important part in developing the intelligence that will drive the deployment of other Customs teams across Cornwall, both inland and at Cornish ports.
My hon. Friend raises concerns about the personal circumstances of staff affected by change. Customs managers are very mindful of that. Over 80 per cent. of nearly 350 staff in the south-west division of Customs have signed up for the new mobile brigades, and almost half of the remainder have either been found or lined up for work elsewhere in Customs. In some cases, arrangements have been individually tailored to deal with special family circumstances.
Ms Atherton: I am absolutely delighted about the three officers. I hope that, over the years, we can increase their number and eventually get back to the current complement, but where will those officers be located? Will we keep the customs house that has long dominated the landscape and skyline of Falmouth harbour?
John Healey: Let me be clear. The role of those officers is an intelligence role; it is not a static detection role. Their function, purpose and role in the modern Customs are different. I am consciousI have seen for myselfhow dramatic the customs house is at Falmouth. At present, Customs managers are looking at the possibility of extending the current lease as the operational base in Falmouth.