HC Deb 12 January 1978 vol 941 cc1851-2
18. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what measures have been taken to prevent the smuggling of livestock from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland; and if he will give an estimate of the number currently involved.

Mr. Dunn

Officers of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, during 1977, increased their land border surveillance activities and their efforts to prevent smuggling of livestock from Northern Ireland to the Irish Republic. There has not been a worthwhile incentive to smuggling cattle since the suspension of monetary compensatory amounts on live cattle in trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic as from the 15th June 1977. Furthermore, the payments made under the Meat Industry Employment Scheme in respect of fat cattle slaughtered in Northern Ireland ensure that there is normally not much to gain by taking live cattle to the Republic.

Monetary compensatory amounts still apply to cross-border trade in live pigs and it is accepted that smuggling is continuing, although, we believe, at a reduced level.

Mr. Hardy

That detailed information is obviously welcome and most reassuring, but does my hon. Friend agree that the smugglers' routes, if not now so heavily used, are deeply trod as a result of ancient activity, and therefore they are easily detectable to the point when smuggling could be even further discouraged, as apprehension should be quite possible?

Mr. Dunn

I assure my hon. Friend that every endeavour will be made to search, seek and find those who are smuggling, but I remind him that the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is 300 miles long. That is a tremendous landscape to put under continuous surveillance. Resources are just not available to do it every minute of the day and for every mile.

Mr. Wm. Ross

Is the hon. Gentleman aware, however, that not only cattle are smuggled and that recently there have been indications of fraud in the smuggling of bacon? Will he go further and tell us what he intends to do about the movement of lamb southwards, in view of the agreement on lamb between the Irish Republic and France?

Mr. Dunn

Every effort will be made to apprehend those who smuggle. The hon. Gentleman brings to my attention a case that has just been decided by a court. There has been a conviction, and there are penalties for the offence. I hope that the severity of those penalties will act as a deterrent to those who may pursue what is an age-old pastime between the North and the South.

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