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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I do not know what more I can say about disclosure, other than repeating the commitment I gave in Committee that part 10 will do nothing to authorise a disclosure prohibited by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, or cut across the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998.
The hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) asked whether the director would receive information that had been obtained illegally. In effect, the director is not an individual but a public body; certainly, he is a public person. All the usual restrictions involving operating within human rights legislation and other requirements will apply to him as they do to any other person.
The hon. Gentleman and I may differ on whether, and to what extent, the human rights legislation should be replicated in different parts of the Bill, but we think the restrictions in the Acts I have mentioned, along with the requirements of the Human Rights Act 1998, are sufficient to ensure that the director cannot act in any way that is inappropriate.
As for the possibility of the director's actions cutting across prosecutory authorities, I can only ask the hon. Gentleman to return to our debate about the hierarchy that we envisage. We do not want any of the powers in the Bill to impede the primary objective, which must be the prosecution and bringing to book of criminals by the ordinary prosecution authorities, and their ability to take such people to court if possible and, when appropriate, to lock them away. Nothing that the director does within any of the powers that we are giving him under the Bill ought to cut across the activities of the other law enforcement agencies, which should come as a first consideration in the hierarchy.
Norman Baker: Law enforcement agencies might collect information at an early stage with a view to prosecution that would then not be used. Can the Minister guarantee that information that is collected and which may be useful in subsequent proceedings undertaken by the Asset Recovery Agency will be passed on? Are there circumstances in which it will not be passed on?
Mr. Ainsworth: The hierarchy will work in such a way that the overwhelming majority of the information that comes to the director comes from the police authorities or the prosecution authorities. In most circumstances, that will occur where they have decided that prosecution is not viable or appropriate, for whatever reason. Of course the information, where appropriate, will be passed on to the director of the Asset Recovery Agency so that he can consider whether or not to pursue the issue through civil recovery, his taxation powers or whatever else is appropriate to him.
I can only repeat that the director will act as a public body. He is restrained by all the requirements that fall upon him under human rights and data protection legislation and the RIPA provisions. We feel that they are sufficient to make sure that information is passed on to the director appropriately.
We do not want to put any restrictions on people co-operating with the director; quite the reverse. We want people to co-operate with him and we want powers to recover the proceeds of crime used far more extensively in this country than they have been over many years. That has been the desire of Governments of all complexions for a long time, but our legislation has been woefully inadequate until this point. We can only hope that our provisions will rectify that and that we can attack those profits and dismantle some of those organisations by preventing them from doing what they exist in order to do, which is to generate money and proceeds.
On the question of targets, my hon. Friends the Members for Wrexham (Mr. Lucas) and for Wellingborough (Mr. Stinchcombe) are absolutely right. There is widespread discussion about how many targets we impose on how many bodies and whether or not it is appropriate for us to do so. We had such a discussion in Committee. I ask Opposition Members to accept that while everyone complains about the number of targets that we require of them, let them try to remove one. The complaints come quickly that by removing the target, we are saying, in effect, that the activity concerned is not core or central and that we are not giving it sufficient prominence. Here, we are not talking about imposing targets on the director, as my hon. Friends have said. The director will draw up the targets. He will have to have the agreement of the Secretary of State.
Mr. Ainsworth: The hon. Gentleman says that we should not impose too many targets. Obviously, the director will want to manage the business that he has been given and he will need to decide on the level of the targets. The hon. Gentleman may be right, and the director may decide that the number should be far fewer than 10, but why cannot we leave it up to him to decide appropriately?
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield): The Minister will recall that one of the anxieties expressed in Committee was about detailing targets for what could ultimately be the amount to be confiscated in any given year. The fear is that there could be a conflict between what is essentially an economic target for a Department and the interests of justice. I accept that no such target is set out, but it is a legitimate matter to raise and to express anxiety about.
Mr. Ainsworth: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. It would be ridiculous to require the director to involve himself in X number of confiscation proceedings, with no consideration of quality or added value or what return comes from those proceedings. The Bill is structured so as to allow him to draw up the targets. He will have to do that and seek the agreement of the Secretary of State. We do not need a numerical restriction.
'11A In section 15 of the Scotland Act 1998 (disqualification from membership of the Parliament) insert in subsection (1)
"(aa) he is the Director of the Assets Recovery Agency";
11B In section 12 of the Government of Wales Act 1998 (disqualification from being an Assembly member), insert in subsection (1)
"(e) he is the Director of the Assets Recovery Agency".'.
'(1) The Lord Advocate must, as soon as possible after the end of each financial year, publish a report on how he has exercised his functions under Part 3 and under Chapter 3 of Part 5 during the financial year.
(2) The Scottish Ministers must, as soon as possible after the end of each financial year, publish a report on how they have exercised their functions under Part 5 during the financial year.
(3) Within a period of two years after the coming into force of Part 5 of this Act, the Lord Advocate and the Scottish Ministers must publish jointly a review of the operation of the Act (other than Part 6) in Scotland, including their opinions on the case for the establishment of a Scottish Assets Recovery Agency.
(4) A report under subsection (1) or (2) or a review under subsection (3) must be laid before the Scottish Parliament.'.
Mr. Carmichael: I associate myself with the remarks made earlier about the conduct of the legislation and our proceedings in Committee. This is the single largest piece of legislation from Scotland to go through the House since the Scotland Act 1998. In that context, I am pleased to welcome back to the debate Scottish National party Members. I am not given to defending my Whips Office, but I remind the House that Plaid Members, who are in the same position as Scottish National party Members, somehow managed, through my Whips Office, to get representation on Standing Committees. I fear that there is something slightly false in the self-righteous indignation that we hear from the SNP.