HC Deb 16 May 1996 vol 277 cc1058-9
3. Mr. Wallace

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what volume of drugs, and of what value, were seized by officers of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise in Scotland in 1995. [28491]

The Paymaster General (Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory)

In 1995, customs anti-smuggling staff in Scotland seized 6 g of cocaine, 12.4 kg of cannabis, 402 doses of LSD and 7 g of other prohibited drugs. The estimated street level value of these seizures was approximately £40,000.

Mr. Wallace

I am sure that the Minister, like me, would wish to congratulate the Customs and Excise officers, who are an important front line in the battle against drugs. However, does he accept that there is considerable concern in the highlands and islands about job reductions in Customs and Excise, and the proposed closures of customs offices, which will leave vast areas and a considerable length of coastline open and vulnerable to those who want to exploit it to import illegal drugs?

Intelligence gathering cannot simply be switched on and off; it requires people to be in communities for a long time, to build up confidence. Will the Minister therefore review the proposed closures of Customs and Excise offices in the north of Scotland?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

That matter has already been reviewed by Customs and Excise, which concluded that the anti-smuggling effort was unnecessarily fragmented, and decided to group its officers into fewer but larger units, and to rely more on investigation and intelligence.

Mrs. Lait

I congratulate Customs and Excise in Scotland on its successful record on drugs, but can my right hon. Friend give me some idea of how successful it has been in counteracting bootlegging, which affects Scotland as much as it affects southern England?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

My hon. Friend has raised that matter with Ministers on many occasions, and I take her observation seriously, because she represents a coastal constituency affected by cross-border traffic and the smuggling of alcohol and tobacco. I assure her that Customs and Excise is renewing its efforts to keep out bootlegged or smuggled products. There will be no relaxation of the efforts to beat that traffic, which undermines not only the Revenue but legitimate traders.

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