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The Commissioners of Customs & Excise v. GIL Insurance Limited & Others (High Court)

Tribunal – procedure – application to strike out – preliminary issues – correct approach – VAT Tribunal Rules 1986, rule 18, rule 19(3)

The Tribunal has a wide discretion in relation to the width of proceedings before it; the court should be slow to interfere with the Tribunals decision on interlocutory matters, and only where the tribunal was plainly wrong either through an error of law or by reaching a decision that is Wednesbury unreasonable. Rule 19 gives the tribunal discretion for its own proceedings, including (most probably) power to strike out parts of pleadings in appropriate cases; rule 18 does not give the tribunal power to strike out part only of an appeal.

The Tribunal adopted the correct approach in asking itself whether there were reasonable grounds for the raising of the state and issue. The taxpayers did have an arguable case. The Tribunal took a reasonable approach.

Similarly, in relation to preliminary issues the tribunal was fully entitled to take the view that none of the suggested preliminary issues would necessarily be decisive of the case; none could be determined as a pure question of law in isolation – from buildings of fact, none was short and easily decided; and that it was preferable for all issues to be decided together at a substantive hearing.

David Vaughan QC and Conrad McDonnell appeared for the respondents

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