HC Deb 27 November 2003 vol 415 cc391-2W
Mr. Cousins

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps Her Majesty's Customs takes to check imported postal packets; and how many cases of(a) imports of banned items and (b) potential tax evasion were detected in the last three financial years. [142422]

John Healey

HM Customs and Excise control imported postal packets at the Royal Mail's two international postal depots at Coventry and Mount Pleasant.

Customs controls are applied to all postal packets imported into the UK from outside the European Union using well-established risk assessment techniques to identify consignments for examination. In addition, Customs examine declarations affixed to packets to ensure that the correct customs duty, excise duty and VAT are charged and collected. This process includes risk-based testing of packets with incomplete or missing declarations.

Customs records do not identify the number of individual packets on which tax may have been evaded as a result of mis-description or under-evaluation.

Packets containing banned items, including drugs, tobacco products, obscene material and firearms, are seized by Customs. The following table gives the numbers of packets containing banned items which were seized in the last three years.

Packets identified and seized
2000–01 21,768
2001–02 20,008
2002–03 18,218

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