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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 March 2007, 19:08 GMT 20:08 UK
Full-time customs officers return
Customs House in Plymouth
Some officers will be at Customs House in Plymouth
The South West is to regain some of its permanent customs officers after they were moved to the south east of England four years ago.

About 100 customs and excise staff were based in Falmouth in Cornwall, Plymouth in Devon and Poole in Dorset.

The decision to bring some back comes after numerous complaints by local MPs.

HM Revenue & Customs said it would not reveal how many officers were returning to the region but added some would work out of Customs House in Plymouth.

We always said that we would review the situation
Bob Gaiger

In 2003, customs officers moved to a system of mobile team working.

Permanent staff at ports including Plymouth were transferred onto mobile teams, with the idea that they could move quickly to wherever intelligence suggested the threat is.

Much of the department's work was also concentrating on the channel ports in the South East, because they were seen as the main ports of entry for illegal drugs and contraband.

But MPs and others criticised the move, saying miles of local coastline were left vulnerable as a result.

HM Revenue & Customs said that the returning of permanent officers to the South West was not a U-turn.

Intelligence-led

Spokesman Bob Gaiger said: "We always said that we would review the situation and if there was a need to reinstate permanently based teams in the South West again for operations reasons, then we would."

Mr Gaiger said that officers would also have new duties in the region, including road fuel testing, which would investigate if farmers' red diesel was being illegally used in non-farming vehicles.

He also said operation were more intelligence-led now.

He added: "We have moved away from just stopping vessels, cars and people at random because that was not a very effective way of working.

"We're convinced that the way we're doing it now is right."


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