HC Deb 10 February 1999 vol 325 cc256-7W
Mrs. Lait

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects to implement in full the recommendations of the HM Customs and Excise Alcohol and Tobacco Fraud Review; and which of the recommendations have been implemented. [69554]

Dawn Primarolo

The Government have already implemented major recommendations of the review by making available resources to enable Customs to deploy additional staff to tackle the smuggling of alcohol and tobacco. Sixty-six new staff were in post at the south-east Channel Ports by the end of November 1998, and the remainder will be in post at other ports and inland by the end of February 1999, taking the total number of new staff to over 100.

Customs are currently undertaking a wide-ranging consultation exercise with the trade to establish the cost to industry of implementing the many review recommendations which involve procedural changes to tighten up on fraud. Subject to the outcome of that consultation, a final decision will be taken on how and when the measures are to implemented during 1999.

Some of the remaining recommendations require the participation of all EU member states.

Rec. number Recommendation
2 Government to consider making available additional resources to adopt a high impact approach at the Channel ports
3 Government to consider making available additional resources inland to tackle the sale and distribution and sale of illicit excise goods
4 Government to consider making available additional resources to enable Customs Solicitors Office to progress cases arising from the deployment of additional resources
40 Government to consider making available increased Customs anti-smuggling resources to combat the risk of cigarette smuggling
44 UK to continue joint action with other member states to tackle cigarette smuggling by air
45 The participation of Customs officers in Police roadblocks
46 and 47 Customs to amend the regulations for the holding and movement of duty suspended goods
48 Customs to review its prosecution policy for excise smugglers
51 Customs should ask the courts to disqualify smugglers from driving for set periods
52 Customs should apply for curfew orders in all appropriate excise smuggling cases
53 Customs should ask the Lord Chancellor's office to advise on publishing guidance on sentencing for excise smuggling
54 Customs to seek compensation orders in addition to any other sentence imposed by courts
55 Customs to explore with the Police that targeted checks be made on hired vans and cars
57 Customs to adopt a tougher policy on seized vehicles with high restoration charges
58 Customs should continue to arrest, charge and prosecute persistent offenders where large quantities of excise goods are involved
60 Customs should seek the confiscation of assets of excise smugglers
69 Customs to take up vendor control problems with relevant fiscal authority
76 Customs should incorporate promiscuous checks on warehouses in assurance plans
79 Customs should continue blitzes of high risk traders
81 Customs should further develop a national task force approach involving closer working with other agencies