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Smuggling: Tobacco

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 9 October 2007

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what proportion of HM Revenue and Customs cigarette seizures were of (a) counterfeit cigarettes and (b) contraband cigarettes, in each year since 2000; and if he will make a statement; (154483)

(2) how many (a) counterfeit and (b) contraband cigarette seizures there were of (i) 0-250,000, (ii) 250,001-500,000, (iii) 500,001-750,000, (iv) 750,001-1,000,000, (v) 1,000,001-2,000,000, (vi) 2,000,001-3,000,000, (vii) 3,000,001-4,000,000, (viii) 4,000,001-5,000,000, (ix) 5,000,001-6,000,000 and (x) 6,000,001 or more cigarettes in each year since 2000; and if he will make a statement.

The latest HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) Annual Report, available on the HMRC website: www.hmrc.gov.uk covering the period 2001-02 to 2005-06, indicates that HMRC has seized more than 12 billion cigarettes since the Tackling Tobacco Smuggling Strategy was launched in 2000. Prior to 2002, HMRC did not estimate the proportion of counterfeit cigarettes seized.

From 2002 to 2004, data on seizures of cigarettes in quantities above 500,000 sticks, and from 2004, data on seizures in quantities above 250,000 sticks, are published in HMRC Annual Reports. No further breakdown of this information is available.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many confiscation orders concerning suspected illicit tobacco were (a) requested and (b) given in each year since 2000; and if he will make a statement; (154484)

(2) how many people convicted of using their premises for the sale of unmarked tobacco products were fined in each year since 2000; and if he will make a statement;

(3) how many people convicted of trading in illicit tobacco not bearing a UK duty-paid fiscal mark were (a) given a fine and (b) prohibited to sell tobacco products for up to six months in each year since 2000; and if he will make a statement;

(4) how many people convicted of (a) tobacco smuggling and (b) handling smuggled tobacco were given a (i) fine, (ii) community sentence and (iii) custodial sentence in each year since 2000; and if he will make a statement;

(5) what the average time was between seizure of suspected illicit tobacco and cigarettes and criminal charges being issued for (a) tobacco smuggling and (b) handling of smuggled tobacco in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement;

(6) how many (a) seizures, (b) prosecutions and (c) convictions there were for the use of premises for the sale of illicit tobacco in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement;

(7) how many (a) seizures, (b) prosecutions and (c) convictions there were for trading in illicit tobacco in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement;

(8) how many (a) seizures, (b) prosecutions and (c) convictions there were for the handling of smuggled tobacco in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement;

(9) how many (a) seizures, (b) prosecutions and (c) convictions there were for smuggling tobacco in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement.

High level data on tobacco seizures, numbers of people sentenced and the value of confiscation orders made are published in HM Revenue & Customs Annual Reports—available on the HMRC website: www.hmrc.gov.uk. The latest report contains details for years 2001-02 to 2005-06. However, the information is not collated and recorded in a way that would enable the level of detail requested to be identified.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many scanners were in operation as part of the national network of scanners to detect high volume tobacco and cigarette smuggling in freight containers in each year since 2000; and if he will make a statement. (154490)

The Government take very seriously the detection of smuggled cigarettes and tobacco and the fleet of scanners has made a vitally important contribution to the success of the tobacco smuggling strategy. The number of scanners that have been in operation since 2000 is:

Number

2000-01

3

2001-02

12

2002-03

12

2003-04

14

2004-05

14

2005-06

14

2006-07

14

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much hand-rolled tobacco bound for the UK was seized overseas by HM Revenue and Customs overseas officers and their host agencies in each year since 2000; and if he will make a statement. (154493)

Figures for the amount of hand-rolling tobacco (HRT) seized overseas have not been routinely compiled and published to date. Most seizures of illicit shipments of HRT take place in he UK as the criminal activity normally involves the smuggling of product which has been purchased duty-paid in other member states. These seizure statistics are published in HM Revenue and Customs annual reports—available on the HMRC website:

www.hmrc.gov.uk

The last report contains details of such seizures from financial years 2001-02 to 2005-06, and indicates that more than 1,150 tonnes of HRT have been seized since the Tackling Tobacco Smuggling Strategy was launched.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many illegal cigarettes bound for the UK were seized overseas by HM Revenue and Customs overseas officers and their host agencies in each year since 2000; and if he will make a statement. (154494)

HM Revenue and Customs publishes its seizure statistics in its annual reports—available on the HMRC website:

www.hmrc.gov.uk

These statistics include details of the amount of seizures of illicit cigarettes made overseas as a result of HM Revenue and Customs overseas officers' engagement with their host agencies. The last report contained details of such seizures from financial years 2001-02 to 2005-06, indicating that HMRC has seized more than 12 billion cigarettes since the “Tackling Tobacco Smuggling Strategy” was launched in 2000.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what progress has been made in reaching the operational target for hand-rolled tobacco of reducing the size of the UK illicit market by 1,200 tonnes by 2007-08; and if he will make a statement; (154495)

(2) how much was spent in each year on the publicity campaign launched in March 2000 to increase public awareness of tobacco smuggling; and if he will make a statement;

(3) how many people were employed to tackle tobacco smuggling in each year since 2000, broken down by job description; and if he will make a statement;

(4) how much was spent on tackling hand-rolled tobacco and cigarette smuggling communication campaigns in each year since 2000; and if he will make a statement.

The most recent HM Revenue and Customs estimate of the size of the illicit market for hand-rolled tobacco (HRT) is for 2004-05. Estimates for 2000-01 to 2004-05 were published in "Measuring Indirect Tax Losses—2006" by HMRC in December 2006 and is available in the House of Commons Library.

An assessment of the HRT illicit market share estimate for 2005-06 will be available at the pre-Budget report 2007.

The full-time equivalents (FYE) of staff employed to tackle tobacco smuggling for 2005-06 and 2006-07 are shown in the table. Figures for 2000-01 to 2004-05 are not available.

Detection

Investigation

Intelligence

Total

2005-06

1,406

319

325

2,050

2006-07

1,545

278

297

2,120

HMRC have invested just over £5.1 million (excluding VAT) in media campaigns to support the anti-smuggling cigarette and hand-rolling tobacco strategies since March 2000. The spend by year was:

Media spend (£)

2000-01

2,049,968

2001-02

865,772

2002-03

806,193

2003-04

672,449

2004-05

83,368

2005-06

556,382

2006-07

91,993

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the (a) revenue loss, (b) illicit market share and (c) cross-border shopped share of the illicit hand-rolled tobacco market in each year from 2004; and if he will make a statement. (154496)

The estimated revenue loss to the Exchequer (duty plus VAT) from the consumption of hand-rolled tobacco supplied illicitly and from legitimate cross-border purchases and their respective market shares of total consumption for 2000-01 to 2004-05 are given in “Measuring Indirect Tax Losses—2006” published by HMRC in December 2006, which is available in the House of Commons Library.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what average time was taken to confirm or deny that seized (a) cigarettes and (b) hand-rolled tobacco was counterfeit before charges could be made in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. (154500)

Since the measures requiring tobacco manufacturers to control their supply chains came into effect on 1 October 2006 the time taken to determine whether seizures of cigarettes or hand rolling tobacco notified to the tobacco manufacturers were counterfeit has been less than 30 days. Prior to this, the time taken varied but was rarely more than two months. The circumstances of each case determine what further action may be taken.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many meetings his Department had with tobacco manufacturers to discuss tobacco smuggling in each year since 2000; what the dates were of the meetings; and if he will make a statement. (154507)

Contact with the main UK tobacco manufacturers and exchange of information has been a key part of the success of the tackling tobacco smuggling strategy. Officials of HM Revenue and Customs have met regularly and frequently with UK tobacco manufacturers in each year since 2000 to discuss tobacco smuggling and other issues.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the market share of illicit cigarettes of cross border marketing and smuggling in each year since 2003; and if he will make a statement. (154533)

HM Revenue and Customs estimates the market share of illicitly supplied cigarettes consumed in the UK and of cigarettes that have been legitimately cross-border shopped.

The estimated market share, and revenue loss to the Exchequer, of illicitly supplied and cross-border shopped cigarettes for 2000-01 to 2004-05 are given in “Measuring Indirect Tax Losses—2006” published by HMRC in December 2006 and is available in the House of Commons Library.