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Customs Regulations (Personal Effects)

Volume 443: debated on Thursday 30 October 1947

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what instructions are issued to Customs and Excise officials at ports in this country as to the value of personal articles of jewellery and apparel that those leaving this country on temporary travel permits can take with them; what steps are taken to ensure that the House of Commons and the public were made aware of these regulations; and under what authority Customs and Excise officials demand the surrender of such articles where satisfactory assurances that they will be re-imported are given.

As regards the first and third parts of the Question, the present instructions give the officers a wide measure of latitude to allow personal articles to be taken abroad if they are satisfied that they will be brought back again. As regards the second part, the prohibition rests upon Export of Goods (Control) Orders made by the Board of Trade under the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act, 1939.

Would not the very desirable objective of seeing that unnecessary amounts do not go out of this country be achieved if the public were aware beforehand of the sort of figures involved?

It is very difficult, because if in any given circumstances an announcement were made of what a person would be allowed to take, that would become the rule. We have given the Customs officials some latitude in the matter.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries to see whether in fact this discretion is being exercised at all? I can give him cases which tend to show that Customs officers are operating a very low and very rigid monetary value, and without any discretion as to the likelihood of sale at all.

If the right hon. Gentleman will let us have any case he has in mind, I will be pleased to go into it.

Should not the sole idea be that people should know, and it should not be in the hands of junior officials to decide for themselves difficult and delicate questions of this sort?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the instructions issued by the Board of Trade to intending travellers are very detailed, and leave very little room for any misunderstanding?