Sorry for taking up yr early morning stream with the non-entertaining. I'm pushed.
Number of months gone by I wrote about an incident involving the HMRC. Some horrible actions akin to their role as the stars of Torchwood Season 1, unlike the current lot who return overpaid taxes. The full piece of investigative journalism is here. If you don't know the story, heres a quick summary:
Coachload of pensioners on a community away day get stopped by British customs at Calais. They're asked to leave the bus and declare all goods. Five of them are hoisted aside for interviews while the others wait the extra hour and a half. Three old folk have their 3kg of tobacco confiscated, despite their being no law prohibiting that amount but for 'suspicion of criminal involvement'. The Customs office reeks of foul play, and I take detailed notes and interview and distribute.
I write to my local MP who is Andrew Smith. His office gives me a call a week later. They've read the reports I've sent them apparently and are quite annoyed particularly about their perceived racial discrimination. I answer their questions and allow their facts to be verified and I'm told the MP will be raising this matter in the Commons. I get a letter in the following days signed by Smith confirming he is going to do this.
April ends, May passes. I run a search on the Hansard Reports but theres no mention of it. June passes. July opens with a letter from Andrew Smith. Hes gotten his understudy Stephen Timms MP to contribute a page and a half of, well bullshit, to create the illusion the issue has gone away.
"I hope that you find this reply useful, and that it explains why coaches are regularly searched. I know this isn't recompense for the bad treatment you experienced and I would be more than happy to look into this more specifically, however that would require giving more personal details, and I'm not sure if this is something that would be acceptable to you." - Andrew Smith, July 1st
Stephen Timms opens up his bit, addressing both myself and Smith in some sort of literature seizure face. Stephen Timms, according to his website, "has strategic oversight of taxation as a whole, including overall responsibility for the Finance Bill, HM Revenue and Customs, and European and international tax issues." He references a letter on 16 April between Smith and Phil Woolas MP, before going on to offer a page on the mission statement of Customs and guide levels. Information I knew and cited in my original article. He goes on to remark,
"HMRC's intelligence and experience at the points of entry of Dover, Coquelles and other ferry ports continues to indicate that individuals and criminal gangs intent on smuggling tobacco into the UK are using coaches. We know for example that gang organisers pay passengers to pose as legitimate cross channel shoppers and purchase excise goods, which will later be sold for commercial gain. Other individuals utilise coaches to avoid the risk of having their own vehicles seized. This is a multi-million pund fraud, which HMRC are determined to tackle robustly. Accordingly their efforts are focussed on those who appear at risk and this does not include making selections based on ethnic origin, sexuality, religious belief, age or any such factor"
- Stephen Timms, 29 June 2009
So, there you have it. Stephen Timms responds to a sustained and reported pattern of abuse over time by citing the Pythons' Hells Grannies skit. I emailed Timms asking if he was aware of the full context of what he was writing about in the "correspondence" either Smith or Woolas sent him. I emailed Smith back asking what exactly hes done about this and What hes doing about it.
Timms claims to be a Christian Socialist. Woolas claims for nail polish and shoes. Smith claims for expenses and he claims rather a lot. They're all aware that there is a strict parliamentary protocol forbidding them from intervening on behalf of other MP's constituents.
I'll not be naming any of the pensioners I was on the coach with. I'll not be commenting on whether they should come forward or not. Its not my decision. However, I might meet with Mr. Smith. I'm not happy at being lied to, and fobbed off. He clearly could use my help but he should have asked for it months ago. What personal details of mine can he possibly want?
If any professional journalists would like to pick this story up, link to it or re-tweet it please do so. I can be emailed at drew dot luke at gmail at com