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Fuel Fraud

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will state the reasons for the size of the variation between HM Customs and Excise's upper and lower estimates of revenue lost from frauds on petrol and diesel, as reported in paragraph 7 of the National Audit Office report, HC614; [38633]

Mr. Boateng: The methodology used by HM Customs and Excise to estimate the revenue lost from frauds on petrol and diesel, and details of those estimates currently available, can be found in "Measuring Indirect Tax Fraud", a paper published alongside the pre-Budget report, copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House.

Fuel (Northern Ireland)

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what estimate he has made of the cost of requiring all duty paid fuel in Northern Ireland to be chemically marked; [38553]

Mr. Boateng: Customs will keep under review the feasibility and effectiveness of all measures required to tackle oils fraud. No estimate of the relevant costs has yet been made.

VAT Departmental Trader Register

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) for how many minutes of a working day the VAT Department Trader Register has been unavailable on average over the last 12 months for which figures are available; [38596]

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Mr. Boateng: The VAT Departmental Trader Register has been unavailable on average for 36 minutes per day over the last 12 months. Almost half of this related to pre-planned downtime for system upgrades. On such occasions staff were notified in advance enabling them to plan their work accordingly.

The occasions between February and June 2001 on which the VAT Departmental Trader Register system was unavailable are as follows:

DateTimes
February 2001
1216.00–16.45
1308.00–15.50
March 2001
1908.00–18.00
2708.00–10.20
April 2001
609.50–12.05
1008.20–08.50
1913.30–16.10
2011.15–12.15
2308.00–08.35
2513.00–14.30
2613.00–14.30
2707.30–10.00
3009.10–10.00
and 15.00–16.05
May 2001
412.45–13.15
908.00–09.45
1110.15–11.10
1515.46–17.02
3008.00–10.47
3108.00–10.47
June 2001
1308.00–18.00
1408.00–18.00

VAT Directive

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what plans he has to press for the amendment of the Sixth VAT Directive following the decision of the European Court of Justice in 'Commission v. the Netherlands' (C-338/98); [38605]

Mr. Boateng: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 20 December 2001, Official Report, column 688W.

VAT

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what requirements HM Customs and Excise impose on the suppliers of digital certificates for VAT in order for those certificates to be accepted. [38558]

Mr. Boateng: The digital certificates must have been issued by a trust service that meets Government guidelines for registration of businesses and individuals.

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Additionally, the service must be approved by a Government recognised approval body, or the trust service provider must have committed to achieve such approval.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what method of selection he used to determine the organisations accepted by HM Customs and Excise as suppliers of digital certificates for VAT. [38559]

Mr. Boateng: The Government welcome digital certificates as evidence of identity issued by any trust services that meet Government guidelines for identification of individuals and businesses, provided:




The Government have been, and continue to be, in discussion with a number of potential suppliers to increase the availability of digital certificate services.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer in how many cases in the year to the end of August 2001 HM Customs and Excise carried out pre-VAT registration visits to traders. [38593]

Mr. Boateng: As part of their strategy to tackle VAT missing trader fraud, Customs carried out 4,498 pre-VAT registration visits between September 2000 and August 2001.

Customs do not maintain data on pre-registration visits conducted for other reasons and it would involve disproportionate cost to produce.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the providers of digital certificates for VAT pay fees and other payments to the Government. [38557]

Mr. Boateng: No.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if it is the Government's policy to seek amendments to European VAT directives to allow HM Customs and Excise to refuse applications from traders to register for VAT in cases where they have continuing concerns about possible fraud. [38594]

Mr. Boateng: Tackling VAT missing trader fraud is a Customs VAT fraud priority. In "Tackling Indirect Tax Fraud", published at the pre-Budget report, the outline of customs strategy to tackle the fraud was set out. It includes a commitment to evaluate new legal and system options for tackling this fraud.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) which organisations have been selected by HM Customs and Excise as providers of digital certificates for VAT; [38560]

Mr. Boateng: HM Customs and Excise are currently reviewing their policy in relation to the use of digital certificates in providing a secure method of submitting

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VAT returns electronically. The review aims to achieve the optimum balance between ease of use while maintaining the necessary level of security. The review will take into account any latest advice from the Office of the e-Envoy on Government policy in this area.

Customs currently allows any digital certificate approved by the Office of the e-Envoy to be used with the electronic VAT return. Two organisations have approved products: Equifax and the British Chambers of Commerce.

National Lottery Franchises

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer in how many cases since July 2001 HM Customs and Excise (a) removed a National Lottery terminal from a trader convicted of selling unmarked tobacco products, (b) objected to the renewal of a liquor licence and (c) asked a franchise-owner to take action against a franchisee. [38620]

Mr. Boateng: Customs notify Camelot when a lottery terminal holder has been convicted of an excise offence. Any decision to remove the lottery terminal remains with Camelot. Since April 2001, Customs have not sent any notifications to Camelot.

Customs notify the police when a person holding a liquor licence has excise goods seized, or is convicted of an excise offence. The police are responsible for lodging any objections to the renewal of a liquor licence. Since April 2001, Customs have notified the police on one occasion.

The information requested relating to franchise owners is not held centrally by Customs and Excise.


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