All tax tribunals at the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) and Upper Tribunal level have been postponed unless proceedings can be held online while parliamentary committees are reviewing their operational procedures, reports Zak Jakubowski
The closure was announced by Judge Greg Sinfield, chamber president, First Tier Tribunal (tax chamber) in response to the covid-19 crisis.
Judge Sinfield said: ‘Until further notice, there will be no hearings at which persons are physically present in any proceedings in the tax chamber of the First Tier Tribunal. All applications and substantive appeals will be dealt with on papers/email as far as possible and decided by a judge sitting alone.
‘If a matter cannot be dealt with on papers, a hearing by telephone (or video if available) will be arranged as soon as possible. If a case is not suitable for hearing by telephone or video, then it will be listed for a physical hearing on a date in the future when it is safe to do so.
‘For the time being, a hearing involving physical attendance may take place only if a judge decides that it is a priority case and necessary to do so in all the circumstances.’
Parliamentary select committees will also review their activities.
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee sessions originally scheduled for this week, Post Office and Horizon, and Net zero, have been cancelled.
Following a motion approved by MPs on Thursday 19 March, there will be no further debates in Westminster Hall, with effect from Friday 20 March. However, this does not affect the main debating chamber at the House of Commons.
Once Westminster Hall has reopened, the backbench business committee will aim to reschedule as many debates as possible. The committee will issue further guidance on debates taking place in the Chamber in due course.
Meantime, MPs in the House of Commons need to practice social distancing and sit 1.5m apart in the House of Commons.
Parliamentary work will continue as normal for now with no plans to change current working practice.
A House of Commons spokesperson told Accountancy Daily that 'there are no plans to use video chat or online services yet'.
Chair of the backbench business committee, Ian Mearns MP, said: ‘I know this will be disappointing for members with debates scheduled in Westminster Hall, as well as for those who have an interest in some of the debates that are being rescheduled to a later date.
‘However, it is important that parliament does everything it can to make sure it can balance its constitutional role and the protection of public health.
‘The committee looks forward to rescheduling these debates at a later time and revisiting these important issues.’
Bills planned for debate in the main chamber of the House of Commons, such as the Coronavirus Bill, are going ahead as scheduled with the second reading in the House of Lords at 12pm today [24 March 2020].