Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 87 & 88 - Illicit trade in tobacco [26182/13 & 26183/13].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 87 & 88 - Illicit trade in tobacco [26182/13 & 26183/13]. (29 May 2013)

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87. Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Finance in view of the Exchequer losses from the smuggling of illicit tobacco products here and the resulting health effects, if he has any plans to increase the number of freight x-ray scanning machines to cover all our ports;; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26182/13] 

88. Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Finance if he will examine the staffing allocations to Customs and Excise to ensure 24 hour operation of existing freight x-ray scanning machines and to allow for the operation of new machines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26183/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 88 together.


I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of taxes and duties and for tackling the smuggling of dutiable and prohibited goods, that they regard the prevention of smuggling, including the smuggling of illicit tobacco products, as a high priority area. The use of enforcement equipment such as mobile X- ray scanners and other detection technologies is just one element of a multifaceted strategy employed by Revenue to tackle smuggling. This strategy includes ongoing analysis of the nature and extent of smuggling activity and developing and sharing intelligence on a national, EU and international basis. It necessitates ongoing review of operational policies and optimum deployment of resources at points of importation and inland to intercept contraband product.

Revenue continually monitors ongoing developments in the market place in available X- ray and other technologies. Revenue also continuously review their requirements and capability together with their selection and deployment of detection equipment. Revenue has made use of the European Union’s Hercule II programme to part-fund the acquisition of detection equipment and will apply for further funding, where appropriate, in the future. The actual technology selected and the operational deployment of that technology are matters for the Revenue Commissioners.

Revenue currently has three mobile X-ray systems. Two of these are mobile X-ray container scanning systems that are based at Dublin Port and Rosslare Ferry Port respectively. Both these scanners are available for deployment at other ports, and at other locations such as warehouses, as required, and Revenue utilises them, on a risk assessment basis, at various locations throughout the country. Revenue’s other mobile X-ray system is a scan van, which is available for deployment and is used at airports, ports and warehouses. Revenue also uses smaller static baggage/parcel scanners at all major ports, airports and postal depots and are currently in the process of replacing units in Dublin Airport, Shannon Airport and Rosslare Ferry Port.

Revenue, I understand, is generally satisfied with their current scanning capability and consider that the container ports are adequately serviced by their scanners. Revenue has no plans at present to acquire any additional scanners. In relation to the hours of operation of the existing X-ray scanners, I am advised that Revenue staff are rostered to be available to operate these scanning systems during port operational hours, which do not normally extend to a 24-hour basis.

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