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Orders of the Day — Finance Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:20 pm on 20th April 2004.

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Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Chief Secretary, HM Treasury, The Chief Secretary to the Treasury 2:20 pm, 20th April 2004

No, I certainly will not. I have been given sufficient forewarning by the intervention of Mr. Bacon not to give way to the hon. Member who sits on the Opposition Front Bench. The point made by the hon. Member for South Norfolk was entirely different from the one that I was making and was recognised in the Roques report. It was a one-off and, as he fairly said, there has been considerable improvement since in the performance of Customs and Excise.

Through tax stamps we are dealing with a significant fraud that not only deprives the Exchequer of revenue, but creates unfair competition for honest businesses and serves as a conduit of resource for organised crime. The industry, through the joint alcohol and tobacco consultation group, worked hard and constructively to develop a response to the problem, but we know that the anti-fraud impact of that package fell significantly short, and if it continued, would still fall significantly short of that estimated to result from tax stamps. It is right, therefore, that we should protect the revenue as we propose, but offsetting measures will reduce substantially the impact of compliance costs.