RIP Bill to give Revenue rare phone powers

Lord Grabiner moved an amendment to the government’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill to legalise the process, which currently falls foul of data protection laws.

He said that he had recommended in his report on the informal economy to chancellor Gordon Brown that the Revenue should be allowed ‘to follow up advertisements for goods and services that give contact numbers but not personal details’.

Lord Grabiner said the Data Protection Act prevents reverse searches for tax purposes because the information was not supplied by consumers for the purpose.

But Customs & Excise and the emergency services have been allowed to use a public interest exemption to do so. For the government, Lord Bassam of Brighton said this would enable the Revenue to access ‘communications data’ to track down businesses not meeting their liability to pay tax.

The Bill – on which the government has suffered several defeats – enables the police and security services to intercept e-mails and other Internet traffic.

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