HC Deb 30 June 1964 vol 697 cc1110-3
1. Mr. Driberg

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received from the National Council for Civil Liberties on the case of Mr. Ken Bourne, a shop steward whose Income Tex file at the local Inland Revenue office contained a newspaper cutting relating to his activities in connection with an industrial dispute; and if he will circulate in HANSARD his reply thereto.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster-General (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)

I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the text of a letter which I received from this body and of the reply sent on my behalf.

Mr. Driberg

Why is this dubious procedure necessary at all? Is it not possible to obtain all the necessary particulars of a man's income from the employer's return or, if a man is involved in a strike and draws strike pay over a prolonged period, possibly from the union concerned? Or does the Inland Revenue not trust this particular employer or the union?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

There is nothing dubious about this procedure. As I explained to the hon. Gentleman when he raised the question some months ago, it is the duty of the Inland Revenue to be aware of matters which may affect an individual's tax liability.

Following are the letters:

7th April, 1964.

Dear Sir,

Further to your reply to Mr. Tom Driberg regarding the case of Mr. Ken Bourne, whose personal file at the Inland Revenue office at Harlow contained a newspaper cutting concerning a strike in which, as a shop steward of the E.T.U., he had been involved, we should be grateful if you could advise us of the steps taken by the Inland Revenue to collect information concerning individuals.

In the case of Mr. Bourne, reference has been made to a newspaper clipping but your reply suggests that it is the Government view that Inland Revenue should collect information regarding individuals. We would appreciate it if you could clarify the situation and advise us whether in fact a special staff is maintained for this purpose; whether information is compiled on a haphazard basis regarding all those affected by Inland Revenue regulations; or whether advantage is taken of information collected by M.I.5 or Special Branch of the Police.

Yours faithfully,


General Secretary,

National Council for

Civil Liberties.

7th May, 1964.

Dear Sir,

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has asked me to reply to your letter of the 7th April about his Answer to Mr. Tom Driberg's Parliamentary Question about the case of Mr. Ken Bourne.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter made it clear that the Inland Revenue are not concerned to collect information about a taxpayer which does not bear on his lability to tax, but that on the other hand it is their duty to record any information relevant to tax liability which comes to their attention through press reports. There is, of course, no question of a special staff; the officer in the local Tax Office who is dealing with the particular taxpayer's affairs would take note of any such information in the ordinary course of his duties.

You will appreciate that the primary source of information regarding a taxpayer's income is the return which he is required to make under statutory provisions. This information may be supplemented and checked by a variety of statutory returns which may be called for from third parties. For example, employers make returns of remuneration paid to their employees; banks make returns of interest paid to depositors. There is no statutory power to require information from Government Departments and other public authorities as such.

Yours faithfully,


Private Secretary.

2. Mr. Driberg

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what procedure is followed in deciding whether a press report is relevant to an individual taxpayer's Income Tax liability, and that cuttings of such reports should, accordingly, be included in his file; whether such cuttings are collected systematically or at random; and what steps are taken to check the accuracy of the reports and to ensure that, if a correction is published subsequently, this also is included in the file or the original cutting destroyed.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

There is no set procedure; it is a matter of applying common sense.

Mr. Driberg

In that case, can we assume that the cuttings are collected at random and that no attempt is made to check their accuracy?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Gentleman can make no such assumption. As I have explained in reply to his previous Question, this is a perfectly commonsense variation on the duty of officers of the Inland Revenue to inform themselves of matters which may affect an individual's tax liability or may enable returns in respect of him to be checked.

Mr. Driberg

Since the right hon. Gentleman seems to imply that the cuttings are not collected at random, can we take it that they are collected systematically, and if so how—by means of enormous subscriptions to a press cutting agency, or what?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

They are collected by the individual officer in the course of his duties, neither at random nor systematically.

Mr. Driberg

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.

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