HL Deb 04 November 1959 vol 219 cc331-2

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will consider the abolition of the outward Customs examination, in view of the virtual and most welcome freeing of sterling for overseas travel throughout the world.]


My Lords, there is now no limit upon the amount of money in the form of foreign currency or sterling travellers' cheques and similar instruments that travellers may take abroad for bona fide purposes, except that, where a traveller wishes to take more than £250 in a year, he must apply to the Bank of England for permission. Clearly, this limitation on the export of capital would lose much of its effectiveness if there were not also control of the amount of sterling currency that a passenger might take with him. Accordingly, there is still a limit on this amount, although, as has just been announced, it is now raised from £20 to £50. The Customs have a responsibility for seeing that this limit is not exceeded, a responsibility which they would be unable to discharge if examination of outgoing passengers were abandoned.

Your Lordships will be aware, moreover, that, apart from exchange control, there is export licensing affecting, for example, works of art and goods of strategic importance. So long as the law imposes restrictions upon exports, the possibility of evasion must be guarded against and minimised. The Customs examination is conducted, in practice, with discretion and tact, and it is a question of finding the right balance between interrogation and the very real risk or evasion.

My answer to the noble Lord is, therefore, that, while Her Majesty's Government appreciate his welcome for the recent changes, they cannot at present hold out any hope of the abolition of outward examination of passengers. Subject to the maintenance of the essential controls, however, the procedures in regard to currency and exchange control are being reviewed following the recent freeing of sterling for foreign travel.


My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his Answer. I should like to ask him whether it is not possible to do this outward customs examination by a sample method, as is done in Holland and various other places; in other words, with each aircraft or boat the Customs pick out certain luggage for examination on the bench, the other being allowed to go through. This examination is particularly awkward at Victoria station and at Harwich, where registered luggage is concerned.


My Lords, if my noble friend or any of your Lordships has any particular changes or suggestions to offer, I can assure your Lordships that they will be brought to the attention of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise who will be very glad to examine them.