Clause 305 - Mutual assistance: customs union with the Principality of Andorra

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 24th June 2004.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Shadow Paymaster General

I have one brief question, which the Economic Secretary can drop me a line about. Why is the clause restricted to imports and exports of goods, rather than including services as well? In the interests of brevity, so that we can try to wind up this morning, my only other point is that, again, we can see Sir Humphrey's influence in the background notes, which state:

''Joint Committee Decision No 1/2003 (adopted on 3 September . . . ) provides for a number of administrative mechanisms designed to improve procedures.''

I am bewildered to know exactly what that means, but I will not waste the Committee's time exploring it. I would just like an answer on the services point.

Photo of John Healey John Healey The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

This a relatively straightforward clause, which provides mutual assistance between Andorra and the UK in the recovery of customs debts. It will enable the UK and Andorra to assist each other in the recovery of customs debts owed to one by businesses that are established, or have assets in the other. The clause deals with current UK legislation and provides for mutual assistance in debt recovery between the UK and other member states and Andorra.

As the hon. Gentleman says, the clause applies only to customs debts arising from unpaid customs duties payable on imports or exports. The mutual assistance provisions do not extend to indirect taxes such as VAT, excise duties, charges such as agricultural duties or direct taxes such as income tax or corporation tax.

The safeguards are identical to those that apply to intra-EU mutual assistance. They will be in place to allow the taxpayer to challenge disputed liabilities. I will, as the hon. Gentleman requests, write to him about goods and services, and I commend the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 305 ordered to stand part of the Bill.