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 accept what the hon. Gentleman says about what we include and what we do not include. We have said that we want to follow tax practice in its entirety, with the one major exception of tax levied on income the source of which is unknown. As he rightly says, the matter follows a route of which he and the hon. Member for Beaconsfield are aware. I am not sure whether it is necessary to include the details in the Bill. I shall reflect on whether that would help in any way. The Bill follows the route that is currently trodden in those cases.

There is a right of complaint against the actions of the director of the Assets Recovery Agency. When the director is operating his tax functions, there will be a right of recourse to the parliamentary ombudsman, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, as there is against the actions of Inland Revenue when it operates its tax functions. That is provided for in schedule 8, paragraph 2. Therefore, there is another route to the High Court.

The assessors will—I hope—have specialist knowledge. Their expertise will be valuable to the special commissioners during such hearings. We want them to have expertise in financial investigation or value assessment, which might be particularly relevant when the special commissioners are hearing cases that involve no-source tax assessments by the director.

Although I am sure that expertise in financial assessment exists, I also agree with the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) that it will be necessary to develop that if we are to be fully effective in confiscating the proceeds of crime through the powers provided by the Bill. However, that is the kind of expertise that will be sought when sourceless tax assessments need to be conducted.