Clause 31 - Functions

Part of Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 18 January 2005.

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Photo of John Healey John Healey The Economic Secretary to the Treasury 9:25, 18 January 2005

It will indeed. The hon. Gentleman and the Law Society have expressed concerns that the powers relating to tax and excise offensives are wide ranging. That is because the offences in clause 55 to which he drew attention are listed generically and individual instances will inevitably vary in seriousness. Therefore, discretion must be exercised because not all such offences will require or justify the use of SOCAP special powers. That discretion will not be placed with investigators; it will be vested in prosecutors acting under the superintendents of the Attorney-General.

I have to say that the provision offers the necessary safeguards as well as the necessary transparency and it is in line with the overall rationale in the Bill for establishing the RCPO—in other words, it will ensure that there is an independent assessment of the merits of prosecution of HMRC business by lawyers. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Gentleman and the Law Society will be reassured and the Committee will accept the clause.