Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360 - 379)



  360. Have you looked at the Criminal Assets Bureau in Dublin?
  (Mr Stadlen) Yes, we have.

  361. What do you think of that?
  (Mr Stadlen) It is clearly proving considerably pretty successful in terms of its ability. It has had some very good results in using the civil powers that they have there and also very successful in terms of the use of taxation powers.

  362. Do you know how many staff they have?
  (Mr Stadlen) I think it is in the region of 30.

  363. It is 44, for a population of three million. We have a population of 60 million which on the same proportion—I am not suggesting it should be but just to give oneself an idea—would be 880. Northern Ireland, which is our particular concern, has a population of a million and a half which would give it 22 if it was to be staffed to the same effect or be able to carry out the same amount of work as the Republic. Instead of which Northern Ireland is going to get four as I understand it.
  (Mr Stadlen) We have not taken any decisions yet about the size of the Northern Ireland branch.

  364. If it was in proportion to the size of the England or Scotland branch that would be the figure, would it not?
  (Mr Stadlen) As I say, I accept what you say but no decision about the size of the branch has yet been taken.

  365. When you say you admire and aspire to the effectiveness of the Criminal Assets Bureau in Dublin, are you not going to have to admire it at a distance if you staff it at one tenth of the staff?
  (Mr Stadlen) The planning assumption is just that, it is a planning assumption. It will of course be open to the Government to review the performance of the Agency and to decide later on whether the size is right. It is possible that there may be other factors which distinguish the Agency from the CAB. Quite a substantial proportion of confiscation work will continue to be carried out by the existing agencies, by the police, by the Crown Prosecution Service and Customs.

  366. As it is in the Republic. Have you compared the resources you are giving to the Assets Recovery Agency with, for example, the resources that the Inland Revenue Special Compliance have in their prosecution of the serious tax fraud avoidance groups?
  (Mr Stadlen) Not directly.

  Chairman: We do find this puzzling because in order to do that job in the special compliance office of the Inland Revenue they have 400 and some staff and it is again very much smaller what you are proposing. This is not a criticism. It may be a warning but I am very much interested in your reaction to this. You are willing the means of legislation, are you prepared to will the ends in terms of staffing and management?

Mr Pound

  367. Can I just interject before Mr Stadlen answers that. When we discussed this matter with the CAB in Dublin we were told that their staffing figures were initially 30 per cent of their current staff complement in the early days and as it grew in success also and consequently assets recovered they increased their staffing. Is that an option for you? Are you constrained by anything which would stop you subsequently expanding your staff? I am thinking in terms of crude geography rather than finance?
  (Mr Stadlen) No. The decisions about the future levels of resourcing for the Agency will be entirely about the priorities for the Agency compared with other spending priorities. Obviously there is nothing in the Bill which dictates the size of the Agency.

  Mr Pound: Right.


  368. How much money is in this current year's budget, your Home Office budget, to fund it?
  (Mr Stadlen) Originally the SR2000 settlement provided over £45 million for asset recovery work generally over the three year period and that covered setting up costs for the Agency, running costs for the Agency and other matters to do with asset recovery such as the grant scheme that we run.

  369. This is to set it up to do 15 cases in its first year and five in Scotland?
  (Mr Stadlen) A substantial proportion of the £45 million has not been spent because of the timetable for the Bill because the Bill was not introduced until last October. The target is to have the Agency up and running within six months of Royal Assent so if we get Royal Assent in July it would begin to function in February next year. Our estimate is that the setting up costs will be £3 million and annual running costs when it is fully up and running will be £13 million.

  370. For how many staff?
  (Mr Stadlen) For the 100 staff.

  371. What I should have said to you, you have five senior grade seven officers, you plan to have, according to your notes, is that right? The assumption is being used that five senior grade seven members of the ARA may be employed full time on taxation related work.
  (Mr Stadlen) Yes, that is right.

  372. As opposed to 175 in the Inland Revenue at that grade. I am trying to point out, I am sure you must know, the vast difference in the two organisations in the resources which are going to be applied.
  (Mr Stadlen) You may think that the comparison is not perhaps quite direct because the Special Compliance Office of the Inland Revenue is dealing with the whole range of reinforcement of Revenue business. What the Agency is doing is focusing on picking targets, individuals, who are suspected to be in possession of criminal gains and using the Revenue powers against that targeted group. The size of the target group is no doubt very large, and it may well be that the Agency will initially only be dealing with a proportion of those. It will only be dealing with a proportion of those. Its function is not to enforce, as it were, the whole range of Revenue legislation.

  373. Right. The problem is going to arise, and I know about this from my previous life, when you find you need more staff and you have not got it either in your bids or your PES round or anything else, what do you do then?
  (Mr Stadlen) I think the usual financial disciplines in Government will apply.

  374. Yes, and therefore nothing will happen.
  (Mr Stadlen) I do not think that necessarily follows.

  375. Nine times out of ten it follows. I am not making a party point here but this is the way Government works, is it not? You will have to find it somewhere else out of Home Office money. You would not get extra.
  (Mr Stadlen) That would depend upon the spending review. The spending base lines are reviewed at regular intervals. The first point to make is that the figures given in the explanatory notes are planning assumptions at this stage only, they are not decisions about the size of the Agency. The second point to make is that spending levels are subject to review at regular intervals.

  376. When you were in this planning phase, was this as much as you could get to start up the Assets Recovery Agency? Did you bid for more?
  (Mr Stadlen) I am not sure. Can I have notice of that question and come back.

  377. If you did not you would be unique. Everybody knows that departments bid and the Treasury reduce it. I just wondered if you tried to get more assets because you reckoned you would need more people or was this the figure you always had in mind?
  (Mr Stadlen) It is pretty close to the original plans.

  378. On a planning basis you are happy that you have enough staff to make the sort of impact once you are up and running that has been made in the Republic?
  (Mr Stadlen) I think we are happy that the Agency has sufficient resources to be able to deal with the sort of caseload that we have suggested. There may be room for argument about whether it should have capacity to deal with a bigger caseload but it may be argued, especially when introducing innovative powers like civil recovery and the use of taxation specifically for criminal gains, that the best thing to do is to start on a limited basis and see how we go.

  379. I will pass this over to some other Members in a moment. I thought I had finished until you said "we are happy we have got enough to do 15 cases". What if you have 50, will you take the 15 easiest and leave the other 35?
  (Mr Stadlen) It will be for the Director to decide how to allocate his resources. He will have ultimate control over the distribution of staff between different functions.

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