'These checks will be based on intelligence and sharply focused profiles and will form part of an integrated national law enforcement effort,' Sir John, the minister responsible for Customs, said.
He was speaking at the launch of a Customs and Excise leaflet setting out guidelines on the amount of alcohol and tobacco people will be able to bring into Britain from the EC. The guidelines will allow people to import up to 800 cigarettes, 10 litres of spirits, 20 litres of port or sherry, 90 litres of wine and 110 litres of beer provided that these are for personal use. However, these guidelines have been drawn up for the administrative convenience of Customs officials and to ease fears in the British drinks trade about a free-for-all starting when trade barriers come down. They are not legally enforceable and their only relevance is that someone stopped with more than this amount will have to convince officials that it is for their personal use.
A verification team, recently increased by 120 officers, will try to enforce the distinction between personal and commercial purchases. They will check shops and wholesalers, mostly in London and south-eastern England.
The traditional red and green channels at ports and airports will disappear from 1 January to be replaced by a more flexible system for monitoring the flow of goods within the EC. There will be no need to make any declaration or complete any forms and the only indication to travellers within the Community that Customs still exist will be inquiry points where they can get information.
Sir John emphasised yesterday that 'the single market would not mean any let up in Customs anti-smuggling work against drugs, rabies, weapons, child pornography and other such menaces'.
But many people within the drinks and tobacco industries are sceptical as to whether the limits will be enforced. Even if they are not exceeded the Brewers' Society has calculated that a couple could make pounds 330 profit on a trip abroad.
Leading article, page 20