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Under subsection (3), the appeal is allowed if the notice requiring the review is given before the end of the period of 45 days--again, so far, so good. The grounds for appeal are set out in subsection (5). The facts to be considered by the commissioners have to be new facts. The ground cannot be gone over again--again, so far, so good.

At that point, having considered the new facts, the commissioners can withdraw, vary or confirm the decision that has been reviewed. This is where the clause comes unstuck. When they have reviewed their decision, they may decide to withdraw, vary or confirm it. If they do not, within the period of 45 days beginning with the day on which the review was required, give notice to the person requiring it of their determination,

Therefore, a chap appeals, he produces new facts and if, after 45 days, nothing is said, that is it. He is not informed. He is not told whether there has been an error or whether something has been missed out. If no one tells him anything, the original decision is confirmed.

It is clear what has gone on. The Minister has a busy life. He has an extensive Bill. I think that he has done pretty well tonight in dealing with all the points that have been raised, but he may have missed this point. The provision is designed to cover some official who perhaps fails to notify the person of the decision of the commissioners that the original decision stands. It does not deal with the point that there may be an error, that the commissioners may decide to vary their original decision and that, if someone forgot to tell the chap, that effect would be negatived because they would be deemed to have confirmed the original decision. The amendment changes the word "confirmed" to "revoked" to deal with that situation.

I draw the Minister's attention to the front cover of the Bill, which says,

The Chancellor is a busy chap. I suspect that he has not spotted that particular line because, if ever there was a blatant breach of the European convention on human rights, this is it.

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If I, any of my colleagues or Labour Members were to raise a point of order with you, Sir Alan, they would expect you to respond. They would not expect you just to sit there, thinking that, if you said nothing, it should be assumed that your original decision stood. They would want a response. Anyone who has an appeal wants to hear what the outcome of the review is.

This is a flagrant breach of natural justice. It involves not only the European convention on human rights, but principles of natural justice going back to the origins of the British legal system. People are entitled to an explanation of the reasons given by the commissioners.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde): Will my hon. Friend comment on clause 40(4), which states:

Does my hon. Friend think that that in any way contradicts the argument that is being advanced?

Mr. Ottaway: My right hon. Friend has picked up an important point. What's good for the goose should be good for the gander; if there is written notification in subsection (4), why can we not have it in subsection (8)? That is the inconsistency, and I am pretty sure that there has been an error.

There are two strands of thinking. The first is whether this is a breach of the European convention on human rights; the second is whether it is a breach of a long line of judicial review cases that oblige authorities to give reasons. It is right that I should explore both avenues.

Article 6 of the European convention provides anybody with the right to a fair trial. The convention refers to a criminal case, whereas what we are discussing does not, although someone who does not pay the right levy will be a criminal. None the less, article 6(1), which refers to civil rights--it is not just a question of criminal cases--states:

That article, which has been incorporated by the Government into English jurisdiction, sets out in some detail the circumstances in which that should happen.

The Financial Secretary has to say why everybody else is entitled to have a public judgment but, under the aggregates levy, there is no right to public judgment. The learned work "Human rights Law and Practices", edited by Lord Lester and David Pannick--two distinguished authors--sets out the criteria for a reasoned judgment, stating:

I do not think that we could have a clearer exposition of what is the law and why the proposal is in breach of it.

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The book states:

and sets out a number of cases, such as Ruiz Torija v. Spain and Georgiadis v. Greece. This concerned a

The book also refers to a series of cases that set out the need for a reasoned judgment.

That is not the only work that supports my argument. "A Practitioner's Guide to the European Convention on Human Rights" by Karen Reid states:

So the courts do not have to go into great detail, but an answer is required. The guide continues:

No mention is made of the argument that there is no need to give reasons, although the commissioners could note that there is no requirement for the reasons given to be sufficient.

The guide continues:

It went on to criticise the Bar Council for not giving its reasons.

I hope that the Committee takes my point that the case law on the issue is well established. On the issue of reasoned judgment, the work "Human Rights and the Courts: Bringing Justice Home", which has a foreword by Lord Irvine of Lairg, the Lord Chancellor, no less, states:

There is a clear body of case law and authorities that suggest that the commissioners are obliged to give their reasons and that their judgment should be pronounced publicly.

The reason for such requirements is to curb the power of the state. It is not acceptable for commissioners to be able to hear an appeal and say not a word. They are obliged to say something of their reasons and must not act with impunity or indiscriminately. Individuals' rights must be clear. If the Government cannot accept the amendment, I hope that they will give it serious consideration. Today, we have discussed many issues of varying importance, but this issue is important and the Minister should give it due consideration--as he usually does.

Mr. Edward Davey: I rise briefly to support the amendments. The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) made a powerful speech, including long and detailed references to human rights legislation and commentators thereon. My point supports the substance

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of his argument more prosaically, because clause 40 reveals--yet again--how the Government always try to tilt the balance of tax legislation in favour of the state and against the taxpayer.

In clause 40(3), for example, the taxpayer has only 45 days to request a review. If a taxpayer misses that date, the right of appeal is gone. However, if the commissioners miss the 45-day deadline, it does not matter, and their original decision is deemed to have been upheld. The imbalance is obvious: a requirement is placed on the taxpayer, but no such requirement is placed on the commissioners. That is unjustified. It gives the commissioners an incentive for lethargy, but they ought to be required by legislation to act competently.

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