HL Deb 02 May 2002 vol 634 c137WA
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

asked Her Majesty's Government:

If HM Customs and Excise will change its vehicle seizure policy in relation to alcohol and tobacco smuggling as a result of the Court of Appeal decision in the Lindsay case [HL4153]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The Court of Appeal confirmed in theLindsay case that Customs vehicle seizure and non-restoration policy in relation to those who smuggle alcohol and tobacco for profit was justified and proportionate. It also confirmed that vehicles used to smuggle on a non-profit basis were similarly liable to seizure. However, the court considered that in not-for-profit cases a proportionate response, depending on the individual circumstances, would be to offer to restore such seized vehicles.

Accordingly when Customs detects commercial for profit smugglers, any vehicles used in such smuggling wilt remain subject to the existing tough seizure and non-restoration policy. However, Customs has now further developed its vehicle seizure policy taking into account the clarification provided by the Court of Appeal. When Customs detects not-for-profit smugglers, their goods and vehicles will be seized but vehicle restoration will ordinarily be offered in the first instance for a sum equivalent to the revenue evaded. There will be a rising scale for any subsequent offences up to non-restoration. Customs will reserve the right to vary its restoration terms according to the aggravating or mitigating circumstances of any individual case.

This policy will allow Customs to continue its successful approach of hitting those who smuggle for profit with tough sanctions that strike at their illicit trade and also provides a real and proportionate penalty for those who break the law, albeit without such profit-making motivation. It represents a fair and balanced policy.