Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Reported to the authorities

Astonishing answer to a Paliamentary Question from Syed Kamall,

Subject: Channel tunnel customs

A constituent has contacted me to express his concern about an experience he had
whilst returning to the UK at the Channel Tunnel customs.

He claims that, while at customs, his coach party was detained by customs for an extensive search which lasted around two hours and 30 minutes. He says that everyone on the coach was questioned about their purchases in France and that the questions were intrusive. For example, he says that he was asked how many cigarettes he smoked, how many cigarettes he rolled from each pouch of tobacco, how much he drank and how many pouches he used a week.

He claims that the coach driver said that HM Revenue and Customs are targeting a group of coach companies which regularly take coaches to Belgium for shopping trips in an attempt to put them out of business, in order to save the Treasury money from inflated tobacco prices in the UK. He believes that this anti-competitive action should be seen as illegal and against the single market ethos, under EC law.

Does the Commission consider such alleged over-zealous controls on the border to be a breach of the internal market? If so, what action does the Commission plan to
take against the UK Government to ensure proper operation of the single market?

This in itself is worrying.

But the answer is even more so,
...the UK authorities have instituted and encouraged a cooperative approach. In order to render the border controls less burdensome for passengers and to avoid situations described by the Honourable Member, owners of coach businesses are encouraged to meet with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) managers and subsequently to provide, before each trip departs from the UK, a list of passengers which may assist with identifying recidivists or other individuals to whom the Border Force would like to speak. The resultant improved targeting allows delays to be reduced through reducing the number of passengers whose journey will be interrupted. Many UK companies have availed of the opportunity to cooperate in this way.
So run that one past me again. Customs and Revenue are getting private companies to report on their clients for possible breach of import duty rules. This is very much the sort of activity encouraged by the former Soviet block. The political elite and their fellow travellers it seems will not stop until we all inform on each other.

What's the betting that the HMRC has put pressure (encouragement) on the companies to disclose what must be private information?

1 comment:

Sue said...

Illegal surely? They're certainly getting more paranoid by the hour! I remember leaving Britain with my furniture in an old van 3 years ago and having to go through the whole "x-ray" process.

Goodness knows whether they thought I was smuggling anything out!?!?