HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has not requested any information from supermarkets’ tracking systems. I refer the hon. Member to my answer to her of 10 December 2009, Official Report, column 583W. HMRC only has access to systems and records which relate directly to the customs declaration and to the person shown as the importer/consignee on it.
The documentation consists of original commercial documents accompanying any customs import declaration: the sales invoice and delivery note/consignment note/packing list issued by the exporter and showing the UK importer/consignee, which in the case of fresh produce is normally an intermediate company, rather than a UK supermarket; plant health documentation (where required); and where a preferential rate of duty is being claimed, either a proof of preferential origin showing the place of production and zip code on the invoice or a Form EUR1 issued by the exporter and stamped by the Israeli authorities.
For reasons of commercial confidentiality, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) cannot disclose the names of specific importers/exporters. The information requested in relation to the name of the settlement is not available because no place of production was shown on the proof of origin and HMRC had firm doubts about the origin of the goods.
The identified products were three consignments of wine, two consignments of snacks/soft drinks and one consignment of chocolates. HMRC refused preferential tariff treatment and the UK importer was required to pay the full rate of customs duty on the consignments concerned.
For reasons of commercial confidentiality HM Revenue and Customs cannot release the names of specific importers and exporters.
The accompanying proofs of preferential origin showed that the produce had been produced in one case in 19 different locations including Avital, Nir Moshe, Rewaya and Yavne-EI, which had not been included in the lists of settlements and accompanying zip codes circulated by the European Commission.
The place of production shown on outer packaging/cartons was the Jordan Valley.
The goods were released from customs control upon provision of financial security for the full rate of customs duty payable. Inquiries are under way with the Israeli authorities to establish the true place of origin.
HM Revenue and Customs can confirm that once a duty demand is issued, it is their normal policy to examine further customs entries for the parties involved and to issue additional demands if necessary. They will also target any importer known to have production facilities in the occupied territories.
The information requested could be obtained only at a disproportionate cost, as HM Revenue and Customs would have to obtain and examine the documents, most of which will be held by the importer, in respect of the 996 customs declarations concerned.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) provide specific guidance to importers, which is available at:
In cases where there is any doubt as to the actual place of production, the claim to preference will be verified with the issuing authority in Israel.
HMRC has also asked the European Commission to ensure that in its routine monitoring of the operation of the Technical Arrangement it checks that the Israeli authorities are including the actual place of production, rather than a head office, on the proof of origin.
The information requested is not available, as the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories do not have separate country codes.
Any irregularities detected as a result of the application of the EU—Israel Technical Arrangement are reported directly to the European Commission. The Commission is co-ordinating community-wide action in ensuring that only those products which are entitled to Israeli preference receive such benefit, and it disseminates information about the action being taken and the results of those actions to all member states.