Home secretary Jack Straw has rejected demands from a parliamentary human rights body for controls to be placed on police searches of databases compiled by the tax authorities.
A Home Office spokesman praised a parliamentary Human Rights Committee report making the demand – but insisted there was no need for changes to the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, which is currently completing its passage through the Lords.
The bill, which is being rushed through parliament before a likely June election, will allow National Confiscation Agency staff and the police to make speculative searches of the Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise databases.
MPs and peers on the committee called for ‘continuous monitoring’ of the extended power to ensure compliance with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which safeguards a right to privacy.
They called for consideration of amendments on the accuracy of records and the circumstances when searches are permissible.
MPs expressed concern that there was no proviso that police should have reasonable grounds for suspicion that the subject of a probe had committed an offence or that the tax information was relevant to the inquiry.
Tax officials will have a statutory obligation to disclose information to the police and other law enforcers. The bill also includes plans to allow investigators to remove items from premises being searched in order to examine them elsewhere.
More on this issue at www.accountancyage.com/Tax/1116714.
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