Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee to HM Treasury

  The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee is conducting an equiry into the illegal sales of fuel oil in Northern Ireland with the following terms of reference:

    "To examine the sale of fuel oils in Northern Ireland on which duty has not been paid and the effect of this on the legal trade in fuel oils."

  It has already received a memorandum from HM Customs and Excise and an informal briefing on the problem in Northern Ireland from the Collector there. The problem arises partly from a combination of the differential in duty with the Republic of Ireland and the currency differential. It is compounded by the large number of border crossings from the Republic and the lack of frontier controls inherent in the Single Market.

  A differential in road fuel prices across national borders within the EU, is not, of course unique to the island of Ireland and I have therefore been asked to seek a paper from the Treasury dealing with the following topics:

    (i)  a list of national borders within the EU or forming part of its external frontiers across which there are material differences of road fuel duty or road fuel retail prices, giving the differences in each case and details of any specified duty relief or rebate schemes operated in the frontier areas and designed to reduce locally the impact of the cross-border differential in retail prices. (The Committee understands that such a scheme exists for filling stations in the Netherlands close to the German border and that some road fuel users claim a partial fuel duty rebate in France);

    (ii)  details of any restrictions in EU law which have the effect of preventing the Government, if it wished to do so, setting differential duty rates for particular areas of the United Kingdom (such as Northern Ireland) and consequently the basis for allowing any duty relief schemes of the type described in the previous paragraph; and

    (iii)  an estimate, for each of the last five years, of road fuel duty collected in respect of consumption in Northern Ireland, broken down by type of fuel.

  I should also be grateful if you could let me know which Minister currently handles Customs and Excise matters.

29 January 1999

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