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Yorkshire Dales wine merchant set to take on Customs and Revenue

[Wednesday 09 May 2007]
Pascal Watkins Wine Cave
Pascal Watkins: Dales wine merchant set to
take on Customs

A YORKSHIRE DALES businessman and wine merchant is set to challenge the might of HM Customs and Revenue as he challenges their importing regulations.

Pascal Watkins of the Wine Cave in Hetton specialises in importing wine direct from producers in France - namely Burgundy.

He generally does this by means of a third party shipping company who pick the wine up from the producers in pallet loads and deliver them direct to Yorkshire.

The shipping company on these occasions pays the duty and subsequently charges the Wine Cave for the duty before the goods are released from port.

However should Mr. Watkins wish to purchase wines during his frequent trips to the vineyards himself he is required to inform an organisation called the National Occasional Importers Centre based in Liverpool, at least a month prior to departure, request a form to be sent out, which he then has to return to the centre completed with a duty payment for wine which he has not yet even seen, never mind tasted.

As a small business enterprise Mr. Watkins says he needs the flexibility to be able to meet a new wine producer for the first time, decide he likes the wine tasted, but due to sound business sense decide that he only wishes to purchase 60 bottles from the producer. As using a third party to ship this wine would be inconceivable due to cost, the best measure would be to purchase the wine there and then whilst at the vineyard.

This all seems straight forward, except that HM Customs require this small businessman to use powers that many Multi-National Corporations would kill for, that being ESP (Extra-sensory-perception) or indeed the biblical gift of prophecy; for he must know in advance before he leaves the country what he is going to bring back.

Having read a little about EC principles of free movement of goods between member nations, on the internet, Mr Watkins became convinced that this whole process actually causes an obstacle to the free movement of goods and contravenes Article 28 of the European Charter which states that "Quantitative restrictions on imports and all measures having equivalent effect shall be prohibited between Member States."

So Mr. Watkins took the matter to his business constituency MP, David Curry.

I could drive straight into the red zone offer to pay duty for the goods which can be inspected there and then

Pascal Watkins - The Wine Cave

"Mr. Curry was very accommodating in his interest in this matter, finding the whole existence of this organization completely bizarre, and a ludicrous example of pointless bureaucracy", said Pascal.

"He promised to initially take up the matter with the Chancellor and depending on the response propose that his party take the matter on for reform."

Mr. Watkins believes there is a far simpler and practical method of paying the duty: "I could drive straight into the red zone offer to pay duty for the goods which can be inspected there and then, and with modern day technology this could be simply carried out with a wireless, hand held, PDQ machine.

"Furthermore in a political climate where there is increasingly pressure and demand to reinforce border policing, in order to combat trafficking and terrorism, it would make total sense to abolish a whole department of power wielding, pen pushing, self justifying civil servants and spend the money on Port Customs officials instead."

Should there be an unsatisfactory outcome in the future Mr. Watkins is resolved to take the matter up in Europe.

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