Memorandum by the Inland Revenue
Q1. What efforts
has the Department made so far to implement the Act and in particular
to build a Human Rights culture?
In the two years leading up to the coming into
force of the Human Rights Act the Department planned for implementation
by appointing a human rights co-ordinator who worked with senior
managers and officials across the department with responsibility
for policy, operations and human resources to draw up and implement
a comprehensive HRA Action Plan. Key elements of the Plan included:
the examination of all existing legislation,
policies and procedures to check for ECHR compatibility;
introducing systems to ensure all
proposed legislation, policies and procedures are checked for
identifying human resources issues
on which the Human Rights Act may have an impact;
a training plan which identified
the level of training needed for specific areas of work; and
a communications strategy to raise
awareness amongst staff and identify the key messages to send
to all staff to help bring about a human rights culture.
In taking these issues forward we have worked
closely with Customs and Excise, in line with wider moves towards
closer working between the two departments. We have also consulted
other departments as necessary, most notably the Home Office and
the Lord Chancellor's department.
Q2. How has the Act affected the department's
approach to human rights issues?
Prior to the enactment of the Human Rights Act
the department's general approach to human rights issues could
perhaps be described as reactivein so far as we dealt with
challenges under the ECHR as they were mademaking necessary
changes to legislation as a result of Strasbourg Court decisions
on UK tax matters.
The department now adopts a pro-active approach
to human rights issues. Human rights thinking is now embedded
in the process of new policy formulation and as a result of the
training and awareness-raising programme operational staff are
alert to the human rights of our customers.
All staff have access to guidance and information
on human rights issues through a dedicated website on the Inland
Revenue intranet and through the publication of "human rights
contact points" to deal with human rights issues in specific
areas as they arise.
Q3. What have been the consequences both
for policy formulation and the delivery of services?
The coming into force of the Act provided the
department with the opportunity to review all its legislation
and procedures to check for compatibility with Convention rights.
In many cases this process highlighted areas which, whilst not
necessarily in contravention of Convention rights, would benefit
from a critical review.
For the formulation of new legislation, policy
and procedures we have put systems in place to ensure human rights
issues are considered as part of the process. The outcome of this
is that new policies or changes to operational service delivery
are not put forward for approval by Ministers and/or senior managers
until any human rights issues have been resolved. Whilst this
in itself creates additional resource issues, we believe in the
long run this results in better policy making.
The Act has strengthened our commitment to good
customer services by reinforcing that all our customers are treated
equally and not discriminated against.
Q4. What have been the implications for the
Department of any court judgements on Human Rights matters since
the Act came into force last October?
We have had a judicial review caseex
parte Morgan Grenfell & Co Ltd, where Article 6 and Article
8 issues were considered. Both the Court of Appeal and High Court
upheld the Inland Revenue view in this case. In addition we have
had a challenge to a criminal prosecution following investigations
by Inland Revenue in Scotland (where the Convention Rights were
incorporated as part of the Devolution settlement) on the grounds
of unreasonable delay in bringing the case. In three other such
cases Crown Counsel decided that they should not be taken to court
because a challenge on unreasonable delay grounds would most probably
have succeeded. There are additionally a number of pending Court
hearingswhich have been reported to Jonathon Tross in the
Constitution Secretariat, Cabinet Officewhich may ultimately
lead to changes in some of our internal proceduresalthough
we do not anticipate these will have a major impact on the department.
Q5. What impact has the Act had on everyday
life in your fields of responsibility?
The impact of the Act on everyday life in the
Department has manifested itself in the fact that human rights
issues are starting to be considered as a matter of course by
Inland Revenue staffwhether involved in dealing with customers,
formulating policy or acting as managers. The very presence of
the Act has, we believe, had a positive impact on our dealing
with customers and is contributing to our efforts to fulfil our
commitments on diversity and equality.
A comprehensive audit of the legislation policies
and procedures that the Inland Revenue has responsibility for
was undertaken prior to 2/10/00, to assess whether these were
compatible with Convention rights. The overall assessment was
that these were compatible. In particular no provisions in the
legislation for which the Inland Revenue is responsible were identified
as requiring immediate amending legislation. There are one or
two provisions of a relatively minor nature which may be amended
in due course to ensure they are in line with Convention Rights.
In a number of other areas it is recognised that the position
post 2/10/00 will be further clarified by the Courts.
A key part of the work of the Inland Revenue
involves tackling non-compliance through enquiry and review work.
Changes have been made to procedures for authorising surveillance
and the use of informers in the course of tax compliance workas
a direct result of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act
2000 (RIPA) rather than the Human Rights Act. The new record-keeping
systems that this involves are proving somewhat labour intensive,
with a significant resource impact. We recently had a very useful
meeting with the Surveillance Commissioners Office to discuss
the Surveillance activities undertaken by the Inland Revenue and
the control systems we have adopted in response to both the HRA
The Inland Revenue has not made any other significant
changes to operational procedures. We may however face possible
changes to procedures, particularly in tax compliance work as
the result of Court decisions and this could have a negative effect
in terms of operational efficiency.
On balance, we feel the overall impact on everyday
life has been positive, making all staff at all levels in the
organisation think "human rights" before acting.
Q6. How have you addressed (where it has
arisen) the duty under section 19 of the Act to make statements
of compatibility or non-compatibility with the Convention in relation
to Government bills?
To date the Inland Revenue has been in the lead
on three Government Bills that have required a S19 statement.
In addition we work closely with the Treasury and Customs and
Excise to ensure the duty to make a S19 statement is carried out
for the annual Finance Bill. We are also following best practice,
as set out in Home Office guidance, on S19 statements for secondary
All new legislation is vetted by Inland Revenue
lawyers throughout the policy process who ensure appropriate advice
is given to Treasury Ministers to enable them to make the required