Amendment 85A

Part of Trade Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 15th October 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Liberal Democrat 3:45 pm, 15th October 2020

My Lords, we support these amendments and, broadly speaking, I could just repeat my comments on the previous group. So, if your Lordships could take them as read, I will not repeat them.

The powers of HMRC cannot ride roughshod over matters that are protected, in this instance by legal privilege. It seems to me that HMRC cannot be put above the law as a matter of principle. I will repeat that there are concerns because of the current provision in the Finance Bill seeking to obtain access to bank accounts that would normally have required a court’s approval. There is also doubt as to whether, within HMRC, there are the appropriate procedures for the proper handling of some of the information that it may demand. The issue is around the training and abilities of the people who may access or disclose things who, if previous form is to be followed, can be in relatively junior positions. I think that these are matters that HMRC is trying to address but, despite that, it seems improper to demand to acquire powers before any safeguards are in place. Also, legal privilege would appear to me to need special protection, and therefore provisions to achieve the aims of these amendments would be useful in the Bill.