HC Deb 23 July 1998 vol 316 cc1243-4
4. Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

If he will make a statement on Customs and Excise policy in relation to the illegal importation of coral reef products. [50490]

The Paymaster General (Mr. Geoffrey Robinson)

As in the case of all items protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, customs policy is to confiscate coral imported illegally. Customs usually would prosecute if there were evidence of the importer deliberately breaking the law by such activity.

Mr. Dalyell

Acknowledging the excellent efforts of many customs officers, often in trying circumstances, and in the light of the Adjournment debate on 1 July, may I ask what efforts the Government are making to increase awareness of the impact of the coral trade on coral ecosystems, not only in the United Kingdom but in holiday destinations, where tourists often buy illegally got coral?

Mr. Robinson

My hon. Friend is quite correct to say that there is an amount of unintentional importation occurring, and we are taking action—in a public advertising campaign at airports and other points of embarkation and debarkation—to clarify the matter. I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate him on his Adjournment debate and on drawing attention the matter. I have also read with great interest the recent "Reefs at Risk" report, which he will have seen. Moreover, we are in close contact with the World Wide Fund for Nature and other organisations on the matter.