Customs officers are to gain permission to enter and search people's homes without a warrant in a law change a minister warns would allow
them more powers than the police.
Kit Malthouse, a Conservative MP who became a minister in this week's reshuffle, said he is concerned about new powers for HM Revenue and Customs in the Finance Bill which is currently going through Parliament.
The changes were an extension of the old excise men's powers to deal with smugglers in ports and airports he said, questioning whether such powers are appropriate today.
He said: I hope that Ministers will think carefully about whether it might be more appropriate for a warrant to be obtained to access someone's premises, in the same way that the police do when they have suspicions.
Some of Britain's most popular retail websites, including those run by Tesco, Amazon, HMV and Play.com, will have to stop selling VAT-free CDs,
DVDs, memory sticks and other goods from the Channel Islands from next month.
The developments comes after a legal challenge by Jersey and Guernsey was dismissed in the High Court. While the decision is almost certain to attract an appeal, it will not stop the chancellor from pressing ahead with his plans to ban the trade.
The ruling marks the end of years of campaigning by retailers who told the Treasury they were unable to compete with VAT-free prices online.
Last week, the Observer revealed that two of the largest VAT-free web retailers already had advanced plans to shift to other territories outside the EU, such as Switzerland, in order to continue exploiting LVCR. However, campaigners suggested the
logistics involved were unlikely to make that practical. In any event, should they successfully establish an LVCR operation elsewhere, it is likely the chancellor would act again.