1 November 2012
The Queen on the application of Totel Ltd v The First-Tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber) and The Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs  EWCA Civ 1401 – read judgment
Tax litigation is not the most obvious hunting ground for human rights points but if claimants feel sufficiently pinched by what they perceive as unfair rules, there is nothing to stop them appealing to the courts’ scrutiny of the lawfulness of those rules.
Human rights were not raised per se in this appeal but constitutional principles which arguably play the same role made all the difference to the outcome.
This case concerned the removal of a right of appeal by an Order in Parliament that stopped the appellant company (T) in its tracks, so naturally it turned to judicial review to find a remedy that the tax tribunal was not prepared to grant. T prayed in aid a fundamental principle of our unwritten constitution set out in R (Spath Holme Ltd) v Secretary of State for Transport, the Environment and Regions  2 WLR 15:
Parliament does not lightly take the exceptional course of delegating to the executive the power to amend primary legislation. When it does so the enabling power should be scrutinised, should not receive anything but a narrow and strict construction and any doubts about its scope should be resolved by a restrictive approach.
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