Newly-appointed Leader of the House of Commons — Penny Mordaunt — has criticised the Spanish customs authorities for slapping a group of charity cyclists from Wales with a £7,330 tariff when collecting their bikes ahead of a 600-mile ride raising money for Prostate Cymru, an unexpected fee which may see the club forced to fold.
Addressing the House of Commons for the first time in her new role, the former minister for international trade said the charge was "outrageous" and vowed to "do all I can to help to resolve and get compensation for the group".
Cyclists from the Tap It Out club, based out of a pub in Pyle, Bridgend, flew to Santander, in Cantabria on Spain's north coast, ahead of the challenge, while their bikes arrived by ferry.
However, the bikes were seized and the group told to pay "in excess of €10,000". Tap It Out considered abandoning the charity venture but ultimately paid €8,500 (£7,330) out of the club's accounts to get their bikes back, a decision head of the group, Nicky Morgan, said might "fold the club — shut it down".
The club received backing from Welsh politician Huw Irranca-Davies and Labour MP Chris Elmore who raised the situation with Mordaunt in Parliament this week. He said:
At the weekend, a group of cyclists from my constituency and the constituency of Dr Wallis were doing a fundraiser for Prostate Cymru, travelling from Wales to Portugal. When they arrived at customs in Santander, their bikes were seized and they were asked to pay in excess of €10,000 to release the bikes for the fundraising effort. Clearly, that has had a huge impact on the fundraising; the cyclists ended up paying €8,500 to release the bikes, which the whole House will agree is appalling.
It appears that it was to do with a post-Brexit form linked to importers trying to sell goods in Spain, but clearly this was a cycling fundraising event. I would be grateful if the Leader of the House could make representations to the Foreign Secretary about providing more support to charities such as Prostate Cymru about what forms need to be completed, and about working with the Spanish Government to ensure that does not happen again to much-needed funds for charities.
In response, Mordaunt said she was "sorry" to hear of the charge and insisted there was "no reason" for it, slamming it as "outrageous". Mordaunt said:
I am very sorry to hear of that. There is no reason why they should have had that difficulty — it is outrageous. I take this opportunity to remind hon. Members about the excellent consular service that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office runs.
I had an incident where a constituent was in real danger. Through the consular service, within half an hour of me making that initial call, the local police force in the United States was on that individual's doorstep. I encourage people to use that facility, and I will do all I can to help to resolve and get compensation for the group of cyclists.
"My jaw just dropped"
Head of the group, Mr Morgan told the BBC that organising the trip had been "really stressful" without the added inconvenience and had been rescheduled twice due to Covid.
"We were doing a charity event. It never entered our minds that we were going to sell bikes or be accused of selling bikes. My jaw just dropped," he said.
Another of the riders, Rhys Lloyd, said he was representing his dad who usually rides with the club but is too ill to participate in this one. Mr Lloyd feels like the group has been "held for ransom" and paying the tariff will "bleed a big hole into the club". Another rider, who lost his mum and colleagues to cancer, said he just wanted to "raise funds and awareness".
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.