Written answers

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Photo of Michelle MulherinMichelle Mulherin (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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169. To ask the Minister for Finance the number of mobile testing laboratories for on-the-spot analysis of contaminated fuel the Revenue Commissioners have commissioned, including the purchase cost per laboratory; when they were commissioned and became operational and where they have been used for the analysis of samples; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4046/16]

Photo of Michelle MulherinMichelle Mulherin (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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170. To ask the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 244 of 16 June 2015 regarding the use of mobile equipment for on-the-spot analysis of fuel samples, what does the analysis by this equipment detect and are the tests carried out on the roadside, in forecourts, or in controlled environments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4047/16]

Photo of Michelle MulherinMichelle Mulherin (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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171. To ask the Minister for Finance the number of tests the Revenue Commissioners carried out for contaminated fuel using mobile testing laboratories; the locations where these tests have been carried out; the outcome of each test; the number of prosecutions made or pending as a result of tests made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4048/16]

Photo of Michael NoonanMichael Noonan (Minister, Department of Finance; Limerick City, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 169 to 171, inclusive, together.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that following the introduction of a new marker to all rebated mineral oil last year in Ireland and the UK, the Commissioners procured five portable analysers at a cost of €285,000 for use in the detection of the new marker in road fuel. The analysers, which are micro Gas Chromatograph analysers, were introduced on a phased basis from last September, and have been deployed throughout the country to test road diesel samples on the basis of risk.

The analysers are generally used to test road diesel stored or for sale at the premises of oil distributors and forecourts, as well as fuel stored at the premises of businesses involved in road transport, including hauliers and bus companies. They are also deployed occasionally at roadside checks where it is safe to do so. It should be noted that while the detection of the new marker in road fuel by the analysers empowers Revenue to detain or seize suspect fuel, subsequent prosecutions are only initiated following formal testing and certification of the presence of the marker by the State Laboratory.

In the period September-December 2015, approximately 500 samples were tested using the analysers, resulting in 15 cases where detection of the new marker is being investigated with a view to prosecution. 

The new marker and the portable analysers are the latest elements in a comprehensive strategy implemented by Revenue to combat fuel fraud. Previous measures introduced include a strengthened licensing regime incorporating a new mineral oil licence for traders retailing marked fuels, and a system for monitoring the supply chain based on the electronic submission of returns by all oil traders of their fuel transactions.

In addition to introducing the necessary legislative provisions to underpin these important initiatives, I also put in place other measures designed to strengthen Revenue's hand in combatting fuel criminality. The Finance (No. 2) Act 2013 provides that a supplier who is reckless in supplying fuel for a use connected with excise fraud will be liable for duty at the standard rate of tax, which introduced a very significant disincentive to such activity. In the Finance Act 2014, I introduced measures to further strengthen Revenue's ability to refuse or revoke a mineral oil trader's licence where the trader does nor comply with excise law or does not maintain adequate stock management systems and records.

Revenue's action against fuel fraud has already yielded significant results. In the period since 2011, 31 oil laundries have been detected and closed down, more than 3 million litres of fuel have been seized and 139 filling stations were closed for trading without a licence or for breaches of licence conditions.

The industry view is that the measures implemented to date have been successful in curtailing fuel laundering in Ireland.  This view is supported by a significant increase in tax revenues from road diesel over the past three years.  An analysis of long term consumption trends for road diesel and marked diesel in Ireland undertaken by Revenue also pointed to a significant change in the pattern of consumption following implementation of the measures referred to above. 

I am satisfied that Revenue's strategy for tackling fuel laundering has been very successful and I am confident that with the new marker and testing equipment now in place the opportunities for fuel fraud are significantly reduced.

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