HC Deb 24 February 1983 vol 37 cc1044-5
10. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he now expects to receive the report of the Keith committee.

Mr. Ridley

My right hon. and learned Friend has recently received part I of the report. It covers income tax, capital gains tax, corporation tax and VAT. It will be published on 23 March. Part 2 of the report dealing with the remaining duties and taxes should be ready later in the year. We are grateful to the committee for its work. The report is a very substantial document. It deserves careful study and full consultation. This will inevitably be a long process.

Mr. Atkinson

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he has already put an end to the Soviet-style methods of investigation and interrogation and breaking and entering that have been used by VAT inspectors and Customs and Excise men? Will he accept the recommendations of his hon. Friends who are members of the Conservative small business bureau contained in a booklet recently published called "Moving Forward", to the effect that a High Court warrant should first be issued before documents can be seized?

Mr. Ridley

I pay tribute to that booklet. I must also pay tribute to the Keith committee report. The latter is an extremely weighty document of great length and I suggest that all concerned would be wise to study both documents before coming to a judgment.

Mr. Robert Sheldon

When dealing with income tax evasion, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take account of the concern of the House at the extent of the evasion of income tax and contrast the penalties and the treatment of those offenders with those people, particularly in Oxford, who found themselves arrested merely on suspicion of fraud? Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware by now that for a tax system to be accepted as important, as it is, it should not only be fair but should be seen to be fair?

Mr. Ridley

These matters have been examined in great detail by Lord Keith and his committee. It is right that the House should read the report and then give its views on what the report says, and I look forward to that debate. It will be most important, as it is important that the principles in these matters should be established. Equally, it would be wrong for me to prejudge that by answering such specific questions.