Pepper (Inspector of Taxes) v Hart: HL 26 Nov 1992

Reference to Parliamentary Papers behind Statute

The inspector sought to tax the benefits in kind received by teachers at a private school in having their children educated at the school for free. Having agreed this was a taxable emolument, it was argued as to whether the taxable benefit was the cost to the employer, or the cost of a school place. Debates in Parliament had discussed this issue, and the parties sought to refer to the debate.
Held: It was not an impeachment of Parliament or an infringement of the Bill of Rights to examine Hansard to resolve issues provided the legislation was ambiguous, obscure or suffered an absurdity, and the material referred to comprised statements by a minister or other promoter of the Bill or supporting material, and the statements referred to were themselves clear. Having so referred to Hansard in this case, the taxable cost was the additional marginal cost of providing the service, the profit the school would normally have made.
Lord Browne-Wilkinson commented on the object of article 9: ‘Article 9 is a provision of the highest constitutional importance and should not be narrowly construed. It ensures the ability of democratically elected Members of Parliament to discuss what they will (freedom of debate) and to say what they will (freedom of speech) . . In my judgment, the plain meaning of article 9, viewed against the historical background in which it was enacted, was to ensure that Members of Parliament were not subjected to any penalty, civil or criminal, for what they said and were able, contrary to the previous assertions of the Stuart monarchy, to discuss what they, as opposed to the monarch, chose to have discussed.’
And: ‘I find it impossible to attach the breadth of meaning to the word ‘question’ which the Attorney-General urges. It must be remembered that article 9 prohibits questioning not only ‘in any court’ but also in any ‘place out of Parliament.’ If the Attorney-General’s submission is correct, any comment in the media or elsewhere on what is said in Parliament would constitute ‘questioning’ since all Members of Parliament must speak and act taking into account what political commentators and other will say.’
Given that I do not have to determine for the purposes of my ruling precisely what is meant by ‘place out of Parliament’, I cannot, especially in the light of the Court of Appeal’s statement in Hamilton, construe Lord Browne-Wilkinson’s words as the Claimants suggest. I note also that they were said when rejecting the Attorney General’s submission on a wide meaning of the word ‘question’ and that there appears to have been no argument in Pepper v Hart as to the meaning of ‘place out of Parliament’.


Lord Bridge of Harwich, Lord Emslie, Lord Griffiths, Lord Oliver of Aylmerton and Lord Browne-Wilkinson Lord Mackay of Clashfern L.C., Lord Keith of Kinkel, Lord Griffiths, Lord Ackner


[1992] 3 WLR 1032, [1993] AC 593, [1993] 1 All ER 42, [1992] UKHL 3, [1993] IRLR 33, [1993] RVR 127, [1992] STC 898, [1993] ICR 291


lip, Bailii


Finance Act 1976 23 61 63, Bill of Rights 1688 9


England and Wales


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The Home Secretary had issued directives to the BBC and IBA prohibiting the broadcasting of speech by representatives of proscribed terrorist organisations. The applicant journalists challenged the legality of the directives on the ground that they . .
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Appeal fromPepper (Inspector of Taxes) v Hart CA 1991
. .

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Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Constitutional, Income Tax

Leading Case

Updated: 23 March 2022; Ref: scu.175101