Customs agents

Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 30th January 2018.

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Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy), SNP Deputy Leader 4:30 pm, 30th January 2018

I beg to move amendment 115, in clause 21, page 14, line 15, at end insert—

“(9) Within three months of the passing of this Act, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must lay before the House of Commons a report on the proposed exercise of the power of the HMRC Commissioners to make regulations under subsection (7), including in particular—

(a) the proposed criteria for appointment of Customs agents, and

(b) the proposed standards which persons must meet to be approved for appointment.”

This amendment requires the Government to report on the proposed use of regulations to prescribe standards for Customs agents.

With this it will be convenient to discuss clause 21 stand part.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy), SNP Deputy Leader

This is another amendment to try to get the Government to provide more information on the framework of the Bill. As I have said, I understand that it is a framework Bill, but more information could have been provided, particularly in the context of companies already having to contend with the move from CHIEF to CDS and the massive changes in customs that will be introduced. It would be good for companies to have an understanding—sooner rather than later—of customs agents and the hoops that those agents will need to jump through to be approved.

The amendment asks for the Government to produce a report in relation to

“the proposed criteria for appointment of Customs agents, and…the proposed standards which persons must meet to be approved for appointment” within three months of the passing of the Bill. That will provide a level of certainty to companies about what criteria customs agents will be expected to meet in future. It is an incredibly uncertain time for businesses that export; they do not know what will happen next. This would give them a bit more understanding about the landscape that they will face.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

Clause 21 allows importers to appoint an agent to act on their behalf in respect of their import obligations. Currently, there is widespread use of customs agents who act on behalf of importers and exporters of goods, including by submitting customs declarations on their behalf. They provide a valuable service to importers and exporters.

There are two types of agent—direct and indirect, which are treated differently to represent the different relationships between them and those who appoint them. Direct agents make declarations on behalf of the importer, whereas indirect agents make declarations in their own name. Direct agents make their declaration using the importer’s identifier and they more often represent a domestic importer against whom any debt can be enforced. Indirect agents often represent overseas importers against whom any debt cannot easily be enforced. The changes made by clause 21 will allow the two classes of agent to be appointed.

The clause allows HMRC to make regulations about how the appointment is notified as well as withdrawn, which may be as little as confirming the appointment on the declaration. It also sets out the circumstances in which the agent is jointly liable for import duty.

Amendment 115 seeks to commit the Chancellor of the Exchequer to produce a report for the House of Commons regarding the introduction and regulation of customs agents under clause 21(7) within three months of the Bill’s enactment.

Clause 21(7) seeks to allow HMRC to introduce formal regulation regarding customs agents over and above the current requirement for them to adhere to customs procedures. The UK has authority to further regulate customs agents under the existing customs regime. There are currently no plans to introduce such additional regulation on customs agents, so requiring a report to be produced is unnecessary and will impose an administrative burden at a time when the UK is focusing on its future relationship with the EU. I would hope that the hon. Lady might reflect on my comments about no plans for change and withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy), SNP Deputy Leader 4:45 pm, 30th January 2018

I appreciate the Minister’s clarification and I hope to be able to share that with businesses and organisations that are concerned about the possible change. In that spirit, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 21 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 22