Clause 314 - Appeals

Part of Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 15 January 2002.

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Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 4:30, 15 January 2002

I am urged to put some of our thoughts about the High Court and the assistance of specialist knowledge on the record.

Clause 314 provides that when the director is exercising his Revenue functions, the right of appeal is to the special commissioners, who are independent and are administered by the Lord Chancellor's Department. They are separate from the commissioners of Inland Revenue and will be separate both from the director of the agency and from the Home Office.

The special commissioners will be able to hear appeals from those who have, for example, been the subject of an investigation by the director that has resulted in a no-source tax assessment. The special commissioners will consider the evidence that both parties bring before them and will determine questions of tax liability. There are further rights of appeal from the special commissioners to higher courts.

The right of appeal provided for under part 6 is an equivalent right to that enjoyed by taxpayers in their dealings with Inland Revenue. The one exception is that the right of appeal is limited to the special rather than the general commissioners. That is because the special commissioners have the specialised legal expertise that such cases will require. That does not deny the subject any right of appeal, but it directs the appeal to the appropriate commissioners for that type of hearing.

The special commissioners may need to be able to draw on specialist advice to hear those cases. The clause therefore provides for the appointment by the Lord Chancellor, after consultation with Scottish Ministers, of assessors with special knowledge and experience of matters relating to such appeal hearings. Such specialists may have particular expertise in financial investigation and valuations, for example. The Lord Chancellor will be responsible for the administration and remuneration of such appointments.

The clause will provide a valuable safeguard. It will provide a right of appeal against the director's taxation functions equivalent to that enjoyed by other taxpayers. The hon. Gentleman talked about the High Court. There are rights of appeal to the High Court on points of law, and further rights of appeal to the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords, if leave is granted.