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07 May 2002

Fuel Group Takes its Case to Westminster

Issued on behalf of the Legitimate Oil Pressure Group

9 May 2002

The Legitimate Oil Pressure Group will be meeting with the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee at Westminster on Wednesday 8th May to highlight the continuing problem of fuel smuggling in Northern Ireland.

The fuel group, which has the support of local petrol retailers across Northern Ireland has been instrumental in lobbying both Stormont and Westminster for changes in fuel tax. LOPG representatives, Brian Donaldson and David Blevings will address the committee on:

    * The impact on the Northern Ireland economy of crossborder road fuel price differentials
    * The extent and consequences of the illegal trade of smuggling
    * The effectiveness of measures taken to counter this activity
    * The extent of progress made by government in addressing these problems.

The key statistics are:

    * Smuggling and cross border shopping cost the Chancellor of the Exchequer £380 million in 2001*
    * A third of filling stations in Northern Ireland do not purchase fuel from a legitimate source
    * Northern Ireland's fuel market has halved since 1997
    * Customers can save 30p per litre on petrol by purchasing it in ROI
    * Between 1993 and 2000 excise duty doubled in the UK

We will be telling the Select Committee that Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK that has a land border with another member of the European State - the Republic of Ireland- where the level of duty tax payable on fuel to the government is much lower." said Brian Donaldson, Chairman of the Legitimate Oil Pressure Group and General Manager, Marketing and Retail of the Maxol Group. "This obviously has had a disastrous effect on the Northern Ireland fuel market in terms of retail petrol and diesel sales.

“Half of the loss in trade has been a natural migration of business from the North to South as people living in close proximity to the border travel across to purchase fuel at a cheaper price. However the remainder of the loss is illegal trade in the form of smuggled fuel entering the Province. It is this activity which most concerns us and should concern Government.

"The problem remains that there are not enough measures in place to deter the people involved in this type of crime. Retailers do not fear Customs due to the perception that actions taken are insufficiently punitive. Given the huge profits to be made and the unacceptable risk to vehicles and public safety, the sentences for those caught should be much stiffer.

"As a group we are asking that the government recognise Northern Ireland's unique geographical position. A level playing field for fuel costs must be created on the island of Ireland, otherwise local businesses will remain at a huge competitive disadvantage. In the meantime LOPG is exploring the possibility of launching a quality assurance scheme in Northern Ireland which will be supported by Customs and Excise." He concluded.

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