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Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 17:41 GMT
Fuel duty 'blow' to NI retailers
Diesel pump
Smuggled fuel in NI is costs the exchequer "millions"
A decision by the government to keep fuel duty tax in Northern Ireland at its current level has been criticised as a bitter blow to petrol retailers in the province.

The Legitimate Oil Pressure Group (LOPG) said the decision gave further incentive for smugglers to continue illegal operations across the border with the Republic of Ireland.

A report published last year by the National Audit Office, said that six out of 10 petrol stations in Northen Ireland were selling fuel smuggled from the Irish Republic.

The report also revealed that petrol and diesel smuggling in the UK was costing the Treasury 830m a year in lost tax revenues.

The government has stubbornly done nothing to help support the legitimate fuel business in the province

Brian Donaldson
LOPG

The government spending watchdog said the problem was worst in Northern Ireland, where smuggling and legitimate cross-border shopping were costing 380m alone.

Commenting on the government's decision on Tuesday, LOPG chairman Brian Donaldson said: "The problem is that there are not enough measures in place to deter the people involved in this type of crime.

"The industry was hoping to be thrown a life line today but instead the government has stubbornly done nothing to help support the legitimate fuel business in the province."

LOPG is a lobbying voice for the petroleum industry set up in 1996 to respond to the growing problem of fuel smuggling and laundering.

Last November, an influential House of Commons committee called on the government to cut fuel taxes in the province.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee said the move was needed to tackle fuel smuggling and laundering.

The current price of fuel in the Republic of Ireland is lower than that in Northern Ireland.

Large amounts of illegal fuel are smuggled across the border, which is forcing a number of smaller legal fuel operators out of business.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee said the profits made were helping to "sustain terrorism".

Excise duty on petrol is 20p per litre on petrol and 25p per litre on diesel higher in Northern Ireland than in the Republic of Ireland.

See also:

03 Nov 02 | N Ireland
08 Oct 02 | Wales
08 May 02 | N Ireland
18 Apr 02 | N Ireland
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