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Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office

Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

During passage of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (2005), Standing Committee D, 13 January 2005, column 130 and the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act (2005), 7 February 2005, column 615, statements were made that certain powers available to the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO) would not be used in respect of tax offences until the outcome of the consideration of these powers by the current review of HM Revenue and Customs’ Powers.

Those powers are contained in part 2 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. The Act came into force on 1 April. They enable the director of RCPO (and prosecutors to whom he has delegated such powers), to serve disclosure notices, obtain material, conduct compulsory interviews and execute search warrants. These powers are powers of RCPO, not of HMRC; they are RCPO’s to use. However, the prosecutor can authorise use of the powers by an officer of HMRC in respect of tax offences where the prosecutor has decided that such use is appropriate.

As the powers are for RCPO to use, the issue for the Review of HMRC’s powers to consider was the guidance that was available to HMRC staff when a prosecutor had authorised the use of the powers by an officer of HMRC. The review has looked at that guidance and, following minor changes, has approved it.

The Attorney-General and I agree that the powers contained in part 2 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 are now available for use by RCPO in respect of tax offences.