Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400 - 419)



  400. That is all understood, I am trying to get at how you came to the decision, you did not do it with reference to what is going on in the Republic, you did not do it with reference to the special situations which exist of organised crime in Northern Ireland, some of which is paramilitary related, some is not, some is to do with the fact that Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom with a land border which makes smuggling in and things of that sort much easier, you did not do it with reference to either of those benchmarks, so what did you do it with reference to?
  (Mr Stadlen) First of all, we were very much aware of the position in Ireland, the role of the CAB, and I have visited the CAB as have others. Just to repeat: we have been working closely with the NIO from the outset so we have been informed of those issues.

  401. Maybe I am not understanding the way you are putting this. Sure, you consulted Northern Ireland but there has been no input from the Northern Ireland demands into your figure yet, that is coming later. There was no input from the experience of the Republic of Ireland, that is coming later. But you have now arrived at a figure.
  (Mr Stadlen) The needs of Northern Ireland was an issue that was taken into account in setting a global figure for the UK.

  402. Now perhaps you can help me. If you had not done that, would the global figure have been smaller or larger or about the same? That was the first question I asked you the other way round.
  (Mr Stadlen) I do not think I can give you an answer to that question. I think I have given you about as much information as I have at the moment.

Mr Bailey

  403. I want to ask you about staffing. Just to labour this point, I want to clarify something which has been at the back of my mind on the issues which have just been raised. Somewhere I seem to have at the back of my mind a figure that has been quoted as this raising £200 million. Now is that correct and if it is not correct has any assessment been made of the likely revenue gain from this particular Department?
  (Mr Stadlen) You mean from the Asset Recovery Agency?

  404. Yes?
  (Mr Stadlen) No, we have not given any estimate of how much money the Agency might raise. What we have pointed out is that a survey that was carried out of the law enforcement agencies in 1999-2000 identified potentially the availability of very large sums of money which the law enforcement agencies believe to be the proceeds of criminal activity. Many of these assets are in the possession of people who are unlikely to be successfully prosecuted. So the potential sums of money available for civil recovery are very great but it would be very difficult at this stage, especially with such an innovative power, to try to quantify what the results will be.

  405. Okay. Accepting that, if it is successful, and all the evidence on the Irish experience is that it should be, there is going to be a flow of money, half of which will be available to law and order initiatives across the range. Here we have an unusual situation where you have got what is effectively people being employed to levy a tax which is actually likely to be exceedingly popular and the money can be used for equally popular measures. So you have not just got a win/win situation, you have got a win/win/win situation. Do you think in that context you would be able to expand the number of staff employed?
  (Mr Stadlen) As the Bill is drafted the Agency is not self-financing.

  406. No.
  (Mr Stadlen) It cannot keep its receipts and plough them back into expansion. Obviously in deciding future levels of spending under future reviews past success and past receipts would be a factor that could be taken into account.

  407. Yes. As far as the actual staff themselves are concerned, how are they going to be recruited?
  (Mr Stadlen) It is likely we will need to use a mixture of recruitment and secondments from other Agencies.

  408. Certainly experience in Ireland was that a high level of secondees were from other agencies. You will be recruiting fresh personnel as well. Will that involve, shall we say, different training programmes than perhaps we have today?
  (Mr Stadlen) Well, one of the steps that we have already taken is to appoint a development manager for the Financial Investigation Centre of Excellence. That development manager, who has some staff as well now, he is attached now to my unit in the Home Office. In due course he will become absorbed into the Assets Recovery Agency. One of the functions of the Centre of Excellence is to provide training services to enable the supply of trained financial investigators to be increased because there is a shortage of people with this particular skill. We hope that the Centre of Excellence will increase the supply and that will make it easier to find people to staff not only the Agency but also financial investigation units within police forces.

  409. What sort of qualifications will be expected of them and what sort of salary ranges will we be talking about?
  (Mr Stadlen) There is already an existing training programme for financial investigators and the standards used in that training are being reviewed by the Centre of Excellence. The Centre will make recommendations about the levels of qualification that will be required.

  410. You have not said anything about salaries and I appreciate that to a certain extent that will be dependent upon the recommendations. But looking at the area as a whole people with these sorts of skills can earn quite a lot of money in the private sector. How are you looking at competing effectively with the private sector to get people with the ability and skills to make the sort of impact that you want them to make?
  (Mr Stadlen) Part of the answer to that is that so far as the staff of the Agency are concerned, the Bill gives the Director the power to decide what staff he needs and what their terms and conditions should be. He will be the person who decides what levels of qualification he wants and where he should fish in order to find the people he needs, which pools he should fish. Yes, you are right, there is a shortage of skills in this area and the private sector is one of the pools in which resources may have to be found. That will have to be taken into account in determining salaries.

Mr Pound

  411. Can I ask if the Agency will have access to the various databases of associated organisations like police, Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue?
  (Mr Stadlen) Part 10 of the Bill provides powers for the police and Customs and other committed persons to disclose information to the Director to enable him to carry out his functions.

  412. Is that a yes or no?
  (Mr Stadlen) The answer is that they will be able to provide him with information.

  413. But can he require it of them?
  (Mr Stadlen) He cannot require it of them. The Bill permits them to disclose information to him subject to the requirements of the Data Protection Act.

  414. I am not sure if this is an unfair question or not but which would you prefer had you been drawing up the Bill? If you do not want to answer that I will understand.
  (Mr Stadlen) I was involved in drawing up the Bill.


  415. Can I just be clear when you answered Mr Pound's question you said police and Customs, you did not mention Revenue.
  (Mr Stadlen) Yes, the Revenue are also permitted.

  416. They are included in that?
  (Mr Stadlen) Yes, they are.

  417. A slip of the tongue. So often the Inland Revenue are separate from police and Customs in these regulations.
  (Mr Stadlen) Yes.

Mr Pound

  418. Not in the case of my personal finances sadly. Would you have preferred the Director to have the right to call down the information or are you happy with it being available if required?
  (Mr Stadlen) I am happy, I think, that the information gateways provided by the Bill look as though they should work.

  419. How about the devolved institutions particularly in Northern Ireland, for example the Social Security Agency, do you have access to those databases?
  (Mr Stadlen) Sorry, could you repeat the question?

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