§ Mr. Dobson
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what are the causes of the overseas trade statistics under-recording direct exports of crude oil; who records the tonnages under-recorded; and what is the percentage of the total exports in each year since 1979 represented by the under-recorded direct exports.
§ Mr. Norman Lamont
[holding answer 9 May 1990]: The under-recording concerns exports of crude oil loaded offshore directly on to tankers. The powers of the Customs and Excise Management Act do not cover this trade. Until the end of 1987 information was assembled by the Department of Energy from an administrative source known as the prior notice waiver system. This system was ended in December 1987. Although an alternative system was set up, some oil companies failed to report complete data for this trade to Customs. However, the Department of Energy routinely collects information on oil production and disposals, and the comparison of this data with that sent to Customs and Excise enables an adjustment for under-recording to be estimated.
Figures published by the Central Statistical Office for the current account of the balance of payments and for visible trade on a balance of payments basis include an adjustment for the under-recording of oil exports. On this basis therefore oil exports are not under-recorded, although for the most recent months' figures, issued in the monthly trade figures press notice, the adjustments made to oil exports are partly estimated; figures are revised as further details become available.
Figures published for "Overseas Trade Statistics of the United Kingdom" for 1988 did not include any adjustment for under-recorded oil exports. The adjustment advised to Customs by the Department of Energy for 1989 and subsequently, will appear in the cumulative figures.
There was unlikely to have been under-recording under the prior notice waiver system which was discontinued at the end of 1987. About 10 per cent. of total exports of crude oil in each of 1988 and 1989 was not reported by oil companies to Customs and Excise.