Examination of Witnesses (Questions 71
WEDNESDAY 24 MARCH 1999
and MR BILL
71. Mr Norgrove, a very warm welcome to
you and your colleagues. We have had the opportunity of meeting
Mr Logan already in Belfast. I gather it might be helpful from
your point of view to make a brief opening statement moving the
narrative forward since we had the opportunity of meeting with
Mr Logan and his colleagues in Belfast and you could introduce
Miss Massie to us at the same time. I think we are able to identify
who she is. The ground rules from our side, which I think are
fairly familiar, are first that we do our best to make sure that
questions are asked in a reasonably logical order but that does
mean that we shall dot around the room, we will not necessarily
go in a straight line around the room. We would appreciate it
if you can answer as fully as you can in open session. If there
are in fact things which you would rather say in restricted session
then please do not hesitate to indicate when that would be the
case and we can always have a restricted session at the end. It
may well be either during this session or afterwards you would
like to gloss some of the answers that you have given if you felt
that there was any piece of them which appeared ambiguous or if
you wanted to add any further information. In the same way we
will do the same, if there are questions which we feel we have
failed to ask you we will ask them after the event in writing.
Finally, because the business has changed, and we are not taking
now the business that we thought we were going to be taking at
ten o'clock last night, we may I fear get interrupted by at least
one or more than one Division during the period, in which case
I am afraid we have no choice but to take a break. If you would
like to make an opening statement please do not hesitate to do
(Mr Norgrove) Thank you very much for that. Could
I begin by introducing on my right, Heather Massie, who is Head
of Division from our Excise Policy Group in Manchester. I think
people will know Bill Logan, our Collector from Northern Ireland.
If I may just limit my opening remarks to, as you say, Chairman,
updating the Committee on some of the matters raised in the memorandum
of 22 December. Two principal updates have been required. The
first, to reflect the change in duty rates in 9 March Budget,
there are the 9 March duty rises to update the memorandum on.
Secondly, paragraphs 17 and 18 of the memorandum of 22 December
informed the Committee of our successes, our results in the two
principal areas of anti-smuggling and the activities of the road
fuel testing unit. I have received today the latest figures which
take us up to the end of February. I have taken the liberty of
passing those figures to the Clerk for onward transmission. If
I could just highlight one or two of them, Chairman, to give a
72. Of course.
(Mr Norgrove) The number of successful prosecutions
has gone from two to four, 13 cases are currently with the Director
of Public Prosecutions, the number of arrests has gone up to 34.
One or two more examples. The amount of fuel seized is now very
nearly 584,000 litres and we have now seized 63 vehicles, so some
encouraging progress in the two months that have intervened since
our memorandum was submitted. As I said, the detail of those figures
is with the Clerk for forward transmission.
(Mr Norgrove) If I may I will just limit my opening
remarks to those, Chairman.
Chairman: Thank you
very much indeed. Thank you for your courtesy in bringing us up
to date. Mr Donaldson has to leave after we have been going for
a bit and therefore is going to open the questions from our side.
74. You are very welcome to the Committee.
Can I ask first of all in respect of your memorandum which you
submitted to the Committee, you maintain that it is not possible
to produce a robust estimate of the amount of road fuels being
smuggled. However, what can you tell us about the number of prosecutions
in 1998, I know you gave us some figures already for oil smuggling,
the number of cases awaiting trial, the number of arrests, the
quantity of oil seized and the additional quantity evidenced and
the number of investigations in train at the end of the year,
(Mr Norgrove) Could I do that up to the end of
last month, that is the most up to date figures we have.
(Mr Norgrove) Yes, you are right we still do not
have reliable estimates of the total scale of this problem but
in response to your question on some of the detail, we have had
four successful prosecutions in the financial year to date. 13
cases are currently with the Director of Public Prosecutions.
There have been 34 arrests, 63 vehicles have been seized, I think
that was one of your questions. The amount of fuel seized is 583,588
litres. We have admissions or documentary evidence of smuggling
of some 24 and three quarter million litres of fuel. Finally,
there are 18 ongoing investigations underway at the moment.
76. Can you just clarify, Mr Norgrove, what
period those figures cover?
(Mr Norgrove) They cover from 1 April 1998 until
28 February 1999.
77. Of course, I should have known you operate
on a fiscal year.
(Mr Norgrove) Yes.
78. Just that figure again, the largest
figure you gave us on the amount of fuel?
(Mr Norgrove) Admissions of smuggling?
(Mr Norgrove) In our December memorandum in paragraph
17 the description there was "admissions of smuggling"
of just over 24 million litres, that is now up to 24 and three
quarter million litres of oil.