HC Deb 14 July 1997 vol 298 cc3-4W
Mr. Timms

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the reductions in Customs anti-smuggling staff planned under the Department's 1994 fundamental expenditure review are to be proceeded with. [8760]

Dawn Primarolo

I have reviewed with Customs the previously planned intention to reduce the number of frontier anti-smuggling officers by some 300 posts during the current year. We face a growing world-wide threat of drug smuggling which is increasingly diverse and cunning. In the light of this I have decided that in the present circumstances it would not be prudent to go ahead with these cuts and the posts are to be retained. Customs' target for the value of drugs prevented from entering Kingdom in the current year will be increased by £50 million.

This Government takes the threat of drugs very seriously, and we recognise that Customs anti-smuggling staff play a vital role at our frontiers in combating not only drug trafficking but also in detecting the smuggling of other prohibited goods, such as firearms, paedophile material, and commercial pornography, which post an unrelenting threat to society.

The Government is determined to maintain and strengthen the co-ordinated enforcement action against these evils in which Customs play a key role. Customs have a consistently strong record in the detection and investigation of drug trafficking, not only in the UK but in their contribution to the European and international effort

Funding for these posts will be contained within Customs' existing provision in accordance with the Government's commitment to work within the Departmental spending limits we have inherited for this year and next.