HMRC: The Control and Facilitation of Imports - Public Accounts Committee Contents

Supplementary memorandum from HM Revenue and Customs

Question 62 (Mr Touhig): On the confusion of what is included and what is not included in the EU could you perhaps send us a non-confidential note so we can better understand precisely what you are talking about and perhaps you might want to collaborate with the NAO so we can get one story.

  The European Commission gathers information from Member States each year on the number of physical controls carried out on goods entering the Community.

  The figures provided by the UK to the EU in 2007 only reflected the physical examinations generated by the UK's system for processing all import and export declarations, the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF). These examinations amounted to 0.1% of all goods coming in to the UK from outside the EU. Other physical examinations carried out, in addition to those generated by CHIEF, were not included in HMRC's return to the European Commission. This was because the management information on these additional examinations at the time was not routinely collected and of the same quality as the CHIEF data. Improving the quality of management information in this area forms the substance of one of the NAO's recommendations in its report. Further work done by the NAO and by HMRC calculated that for the period April to September 2008 these examinations added a further 2 to 3% to the level of goods examined coming in to the UK. This is reported by the NAO in paragraphs 2.13 to 2.18.

  The NAO report (paragraph 2.18) refers to the problems comparing examination data directly between EU countries. Since the completion of the report, HMRC has spent some time looking further at how the EU report is compiled. It has been established that there are three main reasons for the difficulty:

    (i) differing remits of the individual countries customs authorities;

    (ii) data quality; and

    (iii) differing approaches to control.

  For example; some customs authorities are responsible for undertaking product safety examinations and count these as part of their physical control figures. The UK does not count these as they are not carried out by Customs; they are undertaken by Trading Standards. In addition some Member States count postal traffic examinations, the UK does not. The UK does not count the large number of X ray scans and screening to detect nuclear and radioactive material. Finally, in general terms it is noticeable that where a country has land boundaries at the eastern borders of the EU, 100% of traffic is examined. In such cases all the traffic is via road and all drivers are stopped. Finally customs authorities are not required to report to the EU information related to the quality of examinations.

  HMRC understands that the EU is aware that there are inconsistencies in reporting performance by Member States and the Commission will be looking to address this later in the year.

29 April 2009

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