An innovative pilot scheme to help traders work effectively in the fashion industry and stamp out sweatshop fraud and poor working conditions is to continue, Paymaster General Dawn Primarolo said today.

The “Fashion Industry Pilot” has demonstrated that Government Departments and Agencies can, by working together, provide a better service to business while reducing fraud.

Launching a new leaflet to help the industry meet its obligations she said:
“The team of eight Departments and Agencies, led by Customs and Excise, have pioneered joint visits to traders, and joint seminars with traders and their advisers. Joint visits mean all Government requirements can be covered by one interview saving employers’ time and money.
“However while the majority of the trade do meet their obligations to society a minority of companies do not. They operate sweatshops with poor working conditions, do not pay hundreds of millions of pounds of tax, employ and exploit illegal immigrants, and connive at benefit fraud by their employees.
“To date, 50 trial visits have secured over a million pounds of additional tax, resulted in weekly savings of #107,000 from benefits overpayments, and six illegal immigrants have been deported.
“The results of the pilot so far are encouraging, and I have agreed for it to continue for another year. I am sure the pilot will help us develop more appropriate ways of delivering Government services to the benefit of business, the community and to Government itself.”

The leaflet “Starting your own Business in the Fashion Industry” will help companies understand their legal obligations and provides contact points where further information can be obtained. It will shortly be available in appropriate ethnic languages as well.

Notes to Editors:

1. The Fashion Industry Pilot was launched in July last year in central London. The eight Departments and Agencies that have worked together include the Benefits Agency, Customs and Excise, the Inland Revenue, the Department of Social Security, the Health and Safety Executive, the Employment Service, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Immigration Service. Local authorities in the pilot area have also been involved including Camden, Enfield and Newham.

2. Each Department has its own responsibilities in working with traders – for example, Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue have advised traders on how to meet their tax obligations. The pilot has meant businesses have found it easier to get help and guidance from all the government and local government bodies involved.

3. The pilot has been part of the Modernising Government initiative which aims to get Government bodies to deliver services to business and the public in an integrated and seamless way.

Non media enquiries should be made to your local Customs & Excise Office listed under Customs & Excise in the telephone book.

This news release and other information about HM Customs & Excise can be found at our website: http://www.hmce.gov.uk.


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