Detention and seizure under CEMA 1979: notice requirements etc

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:15 pm ar 7 Gorffennaf 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Rebecca Long-Bailey Rebecca Long-Bailey Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Again, I have just got a few comments, because the clause is largely uncontroversial. It simply amends the 1979 Act to permit Border Force officers to treat the driver of a vehicle or someone comparable as if they were representatives of the goods being seized. It seems uncontroversial, but it has implications for vehicle drivers, including road haulage drivers. I am not aware of any concerns expressed by potential stakeholders, but what consultation has taken place with the Road Haulage Association in particular, the British International Freight Association and the office of the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Exchequer Secretary

Clause 163 makes provision for an officer of HMRC to treat a person, when seizing or detaining goods, as if they are a representative of the owner of the goods, wherever that person has or appears to have possession or control over those goods.

Under current legislation, when detaining or seizing goods, there is no requirement for an officer to serve a notice of detention or notice of seizure on the person present if the officer believes that that person is a servant or agent of the owner of those goods. Whether a driver can be considered an agent or servant of the owner affects the processes that the officers seizing or detaining goods must follow. However, drivers of vehicles carrying such goods often claim distance from the owner, making it difficult for HMRC successfully to consider them to be an agent or servant of the owner. That leaves HMRC trying to find an owner in what is usually a complex, fraudulent supply chain.

The changes made by clause 163 will allow officers to treat the driver, or a person in a comparable position, as if he or she were a representative of the owner and, therefore, not legally entitled to a notice of detention or a notice of seizure. It will make the operational duties of officers of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs more effective. Currently, those who purport to be owners are arguing that they have not had their legal right to appeal because they were not served with a notice.

HMRC has a duty to take robust action to deal with those who smuggle illicit goods of any description into the UK. By making explicit provision for the driver to be treated the same as an agent or servant, it will reduce the resource required in trying to identify the owner of the goods in what is usually a fraudulent and potentially complex supply chain.

The measure was consulted on in December 2015 for eight weeks. One response was received, and an individual reply was sent. The main thrust of the response was a request for clarification on the rights of appeal, and on whether the legislation would affect the rights of the owner to appeal against the seizure. HMRC was able to explain that the legislation would not affect those rights; appeal rights were not compromised. It was a consolidated response from industry, including hauliers.

To conclude, the measure removes the need for an officer to serve a notice on someone who has, or appears to have, possession or control of anything that is detained or seized. By doing that, the measure clarifies procedure for officers and those from whom the goods are detained or seized. It also removes significant operational barriers for HMRC in its pursuit of reduced excise tax gaps.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 163 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 164