Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Freight Transport Association

  I refer to the Select Committee enquiry into the illegal sale of fuel oils in Northern Ireland to be held on 17 March 1999.

  The Freight Transport Association represents some 12,000 member companies in the UK, including 300 in Northern Ireland, all of whom are road transport users in the own account or road haulage sectors.

  As fuel costs are a substantial element in overall vehicle operating costs, our Northern Ireland members are extremely concerned at the widespread use of illegal fuel smuggled into the Province from the Republic and the resultant unfair competition. This illicit traffic has developed because of the considerable differential between the rates of duty charged on fuel in the UK and the Republic of Ireland and it has produced major distortions to transport operating costs.

  The additional 6p per litre imposed in the recent Budget will make matters worse for the road transport industry, with operators in Northern Ireland finding it virtually impossible to compete with firms in the Republic. It will also encourage more smuggling, and therefore increase the unfair competition by those using illegal fuel to undercut the haulage rates. Already profit margins in road haulage are very low and unless some normality is restored to the market place quickly there is a likelihood of some firms going out of business.

  The Petrol Retailers Association has given FTA a copy of its submission to the Select Committee and for the reasons stated above FTA fully supports this submission and its recommendations. In addition FTA would urge that sufficient resources to be allocated to Customs and Excise to enable effective enforcement action to be taken to eliminate smuggling.

12 March 1999

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