§ 2.39 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BLEDISLOE
My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, with a view to reducing the multiplicity of appeals inherent in the present system (see Thomas Fattorini (Lancashire) Limited v. Inland Revenue Commissioners 1942 Appeal Cases 643), the procedure by Originating Summons in the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice available for the determination of questions relating to estate duty could not with advantage be applied to the determination of income tax and surtax appeals in cases in which no questions of fact are in issue.]
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT KILMUIR)
My Lords, an appeal under the Income Tax Acts can come successively before the Appellate Commissioners, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and your Lordships. The number of stages is no greater than in other civil cases involving points of law which originate before magistrates or quasi-judicial tribunals. In certain company surtax appeals, the hearing before the Special Commissioners may be followed by a re-hearing before the Board of Referees, but there are special reasons for this procedure. It is in only a very small proportion of tax appeals that it becomes clear in advance of the hearing before the Commissioners that no issue of fact can possibly emerge. My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not think that the number of such appeals would warrant a special procedure, particularly as argument before the Commissioners can serve a useful purpose in clarifying the issues of law and thus shortening the proceedings in the Courts.
§ VISCOUNT BLEDISLOE
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble and learned Viscount for his Answer, but I would ask Her Majesty's Government to give general consideration to this question of income tax and surtax appeals, for this reason. In the Fattorini case, which I mentioned in the Question, there were, in fact, five appeals. But that is not the whole story. It not infrequently 323 happens that the High Court remit the case to the Commissioners. That has happened on a number of occasions. In that case, as your Lordships will see, there can be up to seven hearings, and I hardly need to stress the inconvenience, the delay and the cost involved in an appellate structure which can have that effect.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for raising this point. I would remind him, although he needs no reminder of the fact, that in the Fattorini case the Special Commissioners were for the company, the Board of Referees for the Crown, the High Court for the company, the Court of Appeal unanimously for the Crown, and the House of Lords unanimously for the company; and at no stage before the final decision could it have been agreed that this was not an issue of fact. But I would very seriously and sympathetically ask my noble and learned friend first of all to look again, as I am sure he has looked, at the recommendations of the Evershed Committee against the omission of the revenue judge. He will find that in paragraph 543 of their Report. And then, if I may give him some further homework, I should be grateful if he would look at the words of the learned Judge, Mr. Justice Upjohn, in the case of Philipson-Stow v. the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, which is reported in 1959, 1 All England Reports, 583, on page 590, because that learned judge did raise certain difficulties as to the procedure which my noble and learned friend has in mind. He should also bear in mind that in rating cases, for example—where you have the local valuation court, the Lands Tribunal, the Court of Appeal, and the House of Lords—one has the same number.
But I should like to tell my noble and learned friend that I am most anxious to find some improvement in the procedure; and if he would do me the honour of looking at the points which I have suggested, and would then come and discuss the matter with me, I should be most happy to go into it further. I think that he will agree that it is a point of lawyers' law; and, as I have given him the points of difficulty in my mind, it would probably be more kind to 324 other noble Lords if we discussed it privately before again discussing it publicly.
§ VISCOUNT BLEDISLOE
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for that most helpful Answer, and I shall certainly take the opportunity of heeding his advce.