Inspector of Taxes

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Explain the rule in Pepper (Inspector of Taxes) v Hart [1993] AC 593, as it now applies. Evaluate its wisdom. (Look at both sides of the argument). ANSWER Introduction This paper discusses the rule established in the 1993 House of Lords case of Pepper (Inspector of Taxes) v Hart[1] and its current application. The rule is evaluated and conclusions are drawn. In essence, this rule of interpretation provides that where primary legislation is deemed to be obscure or ambiguous and its meaning is difficult to ascertain the courts may, where certain conditions are met, take into account statements made in Parliament by the promoters of the relevant Bill in construing and applying the legislation. The case can be considered as groundbreaking given the previous status of Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1689, which provides: “…the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament..” Until the Pepper v Hart decision, the use of Hansard for the purpose that the decision advocates would have been considered to contravene the rule of Parliamentary privilege.. Article 9 has long been considered one of the great foundation principles and ultimate guarantors of Parliamentary democracy in that it protects members of each House of Parliament, giving them the right to completely unfettered free speech and the power to debate absolutely freely. It is submitted that there is clearly a good and strong historical rationale for this rule. When the Bill of Rights was adopted in 1689 Parliamentary democracy was in its infancy and concerns about the independence of members of Parliament was both profound and well founded. That said however, prior to the decision in Pepper v Hart there was clearly room for the adaptation of the Article 9 principle to accommodate modern conditions. Pepper (Inspector of Taxes) v Hart (1993) The case concerned a question as to the correct interpretation of a tax law provision. The statutory definition of the disputed expression was ambiguous. Relying on the wording in the Act, the Inland Revenue had imposed tax at a certain level, whereas during the Committee Stage of the Finance Bill that included the provision, in the House of Commons the Financial Secretary to the Treasury suggested a different interpretation that was more favourable to the party in this case. The House of Lords ruled that clear statements made in Parliament regarding the purpose of legislation in the course of its enactment may well be used by courts so as to guide the construction of unclear statutory provisions. It is submitted that this ruling is well founded given that the use of such statements does not amount to questioning a proceeding in Parliament and therefore does not contravene Article 9 of the Bill of Rights. It can in fact be argued that quite apart from questioning or subjugating the independence of Parliament and its debating process, the courts would merely be giving true effect to exactly what was said and done at Parliament..

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