Clause 221 - Powers under Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:00 pm ar 20 Mehefin 2013.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury) 3:00, 20 Mehefin 2013

Several clauses are grouped together in respect of the powers that HMRC officers need to have. They seem to be a cluster of reasonably sensible changes, the first of which is clause 221. It relates to a situation in which criminal assets recovery by HMRC can take place only when a police officer is present at the search. However, as HMRC officers also have certain powers, there is clearly no need for there to be both a police officer and the enforcement HMRC officer duplicating the role in personnel terms. Ensuring that we move away from that anomaly under the law makes good sense. I do not therefore have any questions for the Minister about the clause.

Clause 222 covers the definition of “goods”—not “goods” as opposed to “bads”, but goods as opposed to services, and whether HMRC officers, because of peculiarities under the tax law, have the power to search, examine and require information for all classes of goods in a container. The measure eradicates some of those drafting anomalies and again we fully support it.

Clause 223 gives sensible new powers to HMRC officers to detain goods. The operational tax implementation note from the Treasury focused specifically on certain types of goods, but I want to know about alcohol and tobacco strategies. The note says that the

“loss to the Revenue of non-payment of duty on beer and spirits was estimated to have an upper limit of £5 billion over a five year period.”

However, there does not seem to be a reference in the tax implementation note to the loss to the Revenue of the non-payment of duty on tobacco specifically. Will the Minister update the Committee on that particular figure? Beyond that, I do not have questions or queries about what seems to be a welcome clarification of the definition of “goods” under the Bill.

Clause 224 is also sensible. Apparently, the level of financial penalty that can be imposed by HMRC on registered large ships of 250 tonnes or more has not been updated since 1952. The sum was £500, and obviously it needs to be modernised. I think that the Minister is increasing it to £10,000. Believe it or not, that is the equivalent to what £500 was worth in 1952, which I am sure was long before the Minister was born. However, my question to the hon. Gentleman is, should there not be an automated upgrading mechanism under the Bill, so that such fines can keep pace with real prices, rather than having to return and grade the figures under primary legislation? It is a bit daft that nobody has spotted it since 1952. It is therefore quite welcome that it is here. Those are a few questions. We have to make some progress and those are my only observations.