The latest assessment by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs confirms that the amount of revenue lost through the non-payment of UK duty is reducing. We are not complacent, however, and in the past year HMRC has seized 1.09 million litres of illegal fuel.
In 2002, the Chancellor’s Budget targeted fuel smuggling, yet in a written answer on 14 November 2008, column WA150, the noble Lord Myners pointed out that £210 million in diesel revenue had not been collected, and that in 2005-06 it was also £210 million. Given the importance of fuel smuggling to terrorist organisations, why has there patently been no progress whatever since 2002?
The most important thing that we need to do is ensure that we find those who smuggle and deal in illegal fuel in Northern Ireland, seize their assets and bring them to justice. Under the remit of the Organised Crime Task Force, the PSNI and other law enforcement agencies are deeply involved with that. Operations now take place week after week to seize equipment and bring people to justice.
Further to that question—and indeed, to all the questions that have been asked today—does my right hon. Friend believe that conducting clandestine negotiations exclusively with Unionist politicians in a stately home in England helps or hinders the process?
Tempted, as I often am by my hon. Friend, to respond to the question that he asked, there is a serious point, and it is the one that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made previously. This is not a moment for party political advantage in this place; it is a moment for the parties of Northern Ireland, with our support, to strive for and find the agreement that can pave the way to permanent peace in Northern Ireland.