HC Deb 19 April 1994 vol 241 cc754-5

'.—(1) The provisions mentioned in subsection (2) below (which enable revenue traders and taxable persons to be required to keep records) shall be amended in accordance with subsections (3) and (4) below (which correct minor errors in those provisions so far as they relate to the admissibility in evidence of the recorded information).

(2) The provisions are—

  1. (a) in the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979, section 118A; and
  2. (b) in Schedule 7 to the Value Added Tax Act 1983, paragraph 7.

(3) In subsection (6) and sub-paragraph (5) of those provisions—

  1. (a) in paragraph (c) for the words "sections 13 and 14 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1968" there shall be substituted "sections 5 and 6 of the Civil Evidence (Scotland) Act 1988"; and
  2. (b) in paragraph (d), for the words "except in accordance with the said sections 13 and 14" to the end there shall be substituted "except in accordance with Schedule 3 to the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993".

(4) Subsection (7) and sub-paragraph (6) of those provisions shall be omitted.'.—[Sir John Cope.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

The Paymaster General (Sir John Cope)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 31 to 35.

Sir John Cope

The new clause and the amendments refer to extremely technical provisions about the admissibility of documents, and particularly copies of documents, as evidence in civil or criminal proceedings arising under the various taxes administered by the Customs and Excise. The new clause and amendments correct errors not only in the Bill as originally drafted but in the law as it stood. They are extremely minor errors. They arise from changes in Scottish law on the admissibility of evidence. They do not change the substantive law, but they make clear what documents are admissible as evidence.

Mr. Andrew Smith (Oxford, East)

As the right hon. Gentleman said, the new clause and amendments appear to be minor changes. However, it would be helpful to the House if he could explain what difference it would have made if he had not tabled the amendments. Where exactly have the errors occurred, in respect of both the Bill and the position of the law as it currently stands? Does he anticipate that any claims against the Exchequer will arise out of the errors in the previous law?

Sir John Cope

No, we do not expect any claims to arise from the errors. I am not aware of any cases which have occurred or are pending at this moment as a result of the confusion that might have arisen from the items being in the law. The Civil Evidence (Scotland) Act 1988 allowed computer evidence to be treated like evidence in other business documents in civil proceedings. The Bill as it is currently drafted, and the Acts which are referred to in the new clause and amendments, referred to the old civil provisions of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1968, which was originally about civil proceedings but applied later to criminal proceedings. Those proceedings were deleted from statute law some time ago. They are still referred to in bits of the customs law.

Clearly, if a court was asked to refer back to obsolete provisions which have been deleted from the law, it would create a difficulty in judging whether the documents should be admissible. Therefore, it is wise to do as we suggest in the new clause and amendments to bring the law into line by inserting the consequential amendments that should have been made perhaps a year or two ago and by bringing the Bill up to date.

The matter turned up only because of the need to make sure that the drafting of the Bill was correct. That brought to light the difference between Scottish law and English law initially in respect of the insurance premium tax that we are introducing. The amendments correct that difference as well as the earlier legislation to which I referred.

Mr. Andrew Smith

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his explanation. It is good to know that someone is keeping a careful check on the details of these matters. One dreads to think how much other obsolete legislation there might be lurking in the nooks and crannies of the statutes. I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's explanation and I cannot see any reason to oppose the new clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

Mr. Dorrell

I beg to move amendment No. 45, a new schedule—Indexation losses: transitional relief—

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