Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum in response to further questions from the Committee submitted by HM Customs and Excise

Question 1.  What is the value of tobacco seizures for each of the last ten years?

  Seizure figures for years prior to 1999-2000 record both alcohol and tobacco. Unfortunately it is not possible to disaggregate them.

  Figures are for UK seizures

Question 2: Have Customs given any indemnities to employees of tobacco companies?


Question 3: Are any Customs employees under investigation in relation to tobacco frauds?


Question 4: What is the total budget for Customs in each of the last 10 years?
YearRealised Expenditure—£million
(includes administration, programme and capital costs—rounded to nearest million)
2000-01862 *

  *Includes additional funding in support of the tobacco smuggling strategy

Question 6: In your evidence to the Committee you indicated that the need for intensive training of operators was a key contributing factor for the current scanners not meeting projected targets. Why has HM C&E therefore decided to introduce a third system into the network thereby presumably contributing to additional problems in training and operational efficiency?

  Customs are considering the use of a third system particularly at Dover and Coquelles with a view to undertaking a joint scanning programme with the UK Immigration Service at those ports. This could increase scanning capacity whilst minimising duplication and inconvenience for legitimate traffic.

  The number of image interpreter operators required is directly related to the number of scanners employed. The nature of the task of image interpreting is common to all three systems all of which utilise a Windows NT based computer system. A revised approach to training, already introduced, is intended to ensure that adequate numbers of operators are trained in time for any new system to operate effectively.

Question 7: Is the introduction of the third system an indication that the 12 scanners already in place are less efficient than the new system?

  No. Different systems have different strengths and weaknesses. The principal advantages of the third system being considered are the possibility of joint operation with UK Immigration, which it offers and the smaller size and greater manouverability which is valuable at small ports and for regular travel. Customs have yet to finalise a contract for a third system. If such a contract is concluded it would be designed to supplement Customs existing scanning fleet, not replace it.

Question 8: Will the procurement of a gamma-ray based system require the introduction of additional safety arrangements by Port Authorities (already identified as a factor in reducing the efficiency of existing scanners) and thus further complicate operational efficiency?

  The gamma-ray based system emits even less radiation than the current scanners and thus requires a smaller exclusion zone or footprint. Such scanners would therefore be able to use all of the established sites and would not disturb the existing Health and Safety arrangements in any way.

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