HMRC: The Control and Facilitation of Imports - Public Accounts Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)


9 MARCH 2009

  Q40  Chairman: Are you going to write privately or will you send a note to the Committee?

  Mr Clark: To the Committee.[1]

  Q41  Chairman: We determine whether it is kept private or not.

  Mr Clark: We also do another range of scanning of vehicles and freight coming into the UK. Last year we scanned 60,000 vehicles on the journey in.

  Q42  Mr Touhig: You do not have a presence in every port.

  Mr Clark: No.

  Q43  Mr Touhig: So if the security services say they are concerned about a ship which might be docking at a fairly remote British port, what do you do?

  Mr Clark: We would deploy to that remote port. We have very close relationships with security services and the police.

  Q44  Mr Touhig: Who has the lead role in trying to ensure that materials that are helpful to terrorists do not get into the United Kingdom?

  Mr Clark: Security services have the lead role in that.

  Q45  Mr Touhig: Coming back to my first question, how closely do you work with the security services?

  Mr Clark: I was saying that we work very closely with them. They are part of our tasking and deployment arrangements. We have a chief constable on the UKBA board and we continue to develop links with serious and organised crime and other parts of security services. They have the primacy on security issues but we will deploy to their risks as they identify them.

  Q46  Mr Touhig: Do you have the capacity to do that bearing in mind you are not in every port?

  Mr Clark: We have increased mobile capability across the business significantly over the last 12 months and we do have the ability to deploy in that way.

  Q47  Mr Touhig: You say you work closely with the security services. It is not a hit and miss, ad hoc arrangement; this is a regular meeting between you and security services.

  Mr Clark: What I would say to you is that if the security services have identified a risk at a port and seek our deployment we will, without question, deploy.

  Q48  Mr Touhig: You say you have the capacity for that.

  Mr Clark: Absolutely.

  Q49  Mr Touhig: We see at paragraph 2.18 on page 17 that in 2007 the United Kingdom examined just 0.1% of goods coming into the country and the EU average is 9.1% and the median was 7.6%. That is not much of a record, is it?

  Mr Tweddle: Again I think that is misreading the overall Report, with respect.

  Q50  Mr Touhig: If you disagree with the Report why have you not told the Comptroller ad Auditor General?

  Mr Tweddle: We are not disagreeing with the Report.

  Q51  Mr Touhig: That is what the Report says.

  Mr Tweddle: You are missing out the words "based on the CHIEF examination only". There are 2-3% of other examinations which get done for other reasons.

  Q52  Mr Touhig: Why have you not told the Comptroller and Auditor General that his Report is unclear? I assume you have.

  Ms Strathie: The Report actually was delayed in sign off whilst we worked through this process and extra work was indeed asked for in this Report. We did harness all of it, not just 0.1% but 2% to 3% and to provide more context for that. I think we are clear. We are about seventh.

  Q53  Mr Touhig: The European median is 7.6% and we are 0.1%. Is that right? Is that a fact?

  Ms Strathie: Only CHIEF system generated is 0.1%

  Q54  Mr Touhig: So what else is covered outside the CHIEF system?

  Mr Tweddle: We examine a much higher proportion of the cargo as a result of—

  Q55  Mr Touhig: What percentage compared with the rest of the EU, outside the CHIEF system?

  Mr Tweddle: We believe that the figures for the rest of the EU actually include the sort of examinations which are done beyond the CHIEF system.

  Q56  Mr Touhig: Is it a fact or do you assume? Let us not have assumptions. Is it a fact?

  Mr Tweddle: I think the National Audit Office would agree that it is very difficult to establish the basis on which figures abroad have been made but our belief is that the figures for other countries actually include the sorts of checks that are taking place—

  Q57  Mr Touhig: You believe but you are not sure. Does anybody know?

  Mr Burr: If I could just comment on this, we know that the figures that we report are only partial estimates because they are based on CHIEF and the full picture is estimated at 2% or 3% as paragraph 2.16 says rather than at the 0.1%. What we do not know, of course, is whether estimates by other EU Member States as reported are also partial estimates.

  Q58  Mr Touhig: You also say in the Report that, "The Department considers that its risk targeting justifies lower levels of examination, but the fragmented nature of its risk and intelligence information makes it difficult to assess." What is risk targeting?

  Mr Tweddle: Risk targeting is taking all the information that you have about consignments coming to the country—

  Q59  Mr Touhig: So an intelligence led operation.

  Mr Tweddle: Yes.

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