TaxPersonal TaxStraw rejects concerns over tax powers

Straw rejects concerns over tax powers

Home secretary Jack Straw has rejected demands from a parliamentary human rights body for controls to be placed on police searches of the tax authorities' databases.

A Home Office spokesman praised a joint House of Lords and House of Commons Human Rights Committee report making the demand – but insisted there was no need for changes to the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, currently process 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 and proportionate.

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.

Officials from the Revenue and Customs will have a statutory obligation to disclose information to the police and other law enforcers to aid their criminal investigations. Measures in the Bill to make search operations more effective will also apply to the both departments’ own criminal investigations.

The Bill also includes plans to allow investigators to remove items from premises being searched in order to examine them elsewhere to determine which can be seized as evidence.

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