§ Mr. Watkins
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether he will consider an alternative method of disposing of watches seized by the Customs and Excise in place of the present practice which is being abused;
(2) how many watches, with their estimated value, seized by the Customs and Excise, were sold at auctions during the last two years; and whether he will consider using some other method than that employed at present to prevent persons using invoices and official receipts obtained at sales to cover sales to the public of watches obtained direct from smugglers.
§ Mr. Erroll
Seized watches, and other Customs forfeitures, are sold by the Customs by competitive tender for the benefit of the Exchequer. The number of watches so disposed of in the last two years was 35,615 and the proceeds, exclusive of Purchase Tax, amounted to £97,989. There is no evidence that the malpractices to which the hon. Member refers are extensive. Customs sales represent a small part of the total of watches marketed, and the risk of misuse of purchase invoices is not confined to them. The abandonment of the present method of disposing of the seizures would not be justified, or materially reduce the risk.