Skip to main content

Fuel Laundering and Smuggling

Volume 551: debated on Wednesday 24 October 2012

3. What progress she has made on implementing the recommendations of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee’s third report of session 2010-12 on Fuel Laundering and Smuggling in Northern Ireland, HC 1504. (123803)

May I, too, pay tribute to Sir Stuart Bell? He served as shadow Northern Ireland Minister and served his country in many different roles. He will be a sad loss to us all.

Fuel fraud is primarily an excise offence and a matter for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, which works closely with the Northern Ireland Department of Justice and its counterparts, including the Northern Ireland Office. I welcome the report by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. It was very useful, and many of the issues and recommendations it contains will be taken forward. Fuel fraud is taken very seriously and remains a high priority.

Following the memorandum of understanding signed by HMRC and Irish revenue commissioners, will the Minister say what progress has been made on putting in place a single tender procedure for the marker for rebated diesel, and will he assure the House that there will be no slippage on the agreed timetable?

Work continues on that agreement, and there is no doubt that dealing with fuel fraud, as well as with tobacco smuggling, is a top priority for the Government in the Province. We know that money from things such as fuel smuggling gets into the wrong hands and jeopardises the peace that we are all looking for.

I welcome the Secretary of State and the Minister to their positions.

One recommendation in the report by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee was that sentences for such crimes in Northern Ireland should be strengthened because they are far weaker than those in Great Britain. Will the Minister do all he can to help bring about those stronger sentences recommended by the Committee?

I met the Minister for Justice in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and we will work together to ensure that the punishment fits the crime. As I said earlier, money made from such crimes often goes to the wrong areas, and we are looking forward to ensuring that it does not.

I add my voice of congratulation to the Secretary of State; I know that the people of Northern Ireland wish her and her colleague well in their new roles.

A recent HMRC report on measuring tax gaps revealed that fuel smuggling over the past year has increased from involving 12% of all diesel sold in Northern Ireland to 25%—a staggering increase. Does the Minister agree that HMRC must be encouraged to find a measure that will allow it to mark properly fuel in Northern Ireland, so that it cannot be stripped of its mark and sold as counterfeit?

This sort of technical work is being looked at carefully, and one element that will help enormously is the lorry road user charging legislation that the Government started to bring forward yesterday. That will create a more level playing field for all hauliers—those who are hit hardest by this problem—across the entire United Kingdom including, quite rightly, in Northern Ireland.