Proceeds of Crime Bill

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Mr. Ainsworth: Does not the hon. Gentleman accept my point that the Bill requires accreditation to access the investigatory powers under part 8 and other measures elsewhere in the Bill? By potentially removing accreditation he goes attacks some of the capacity in the Bill.

Mr. Hawkins: I do not accept the Minister's point. If one simply inserts ``may'' and gives the director that power, the rest of the powers are still there for him to use. It is probable that a director would wish to do something along those lines. As this is a totally new system we are philosophically disinclined to impose the straitjacket on a director when we do not know what his views will be in relation to the Government's overall scheme and strategy. The Minister came so near to setting out what we were hoping he would set out and, despite what he has said, he may reflect on it. I do not intend to press the matter to a vote but we may need to return to this on Report or in another place. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Hawkins: I beg to move amendment No. 4, in page 2, line 35, leave out `must' and insert `may'.

Because so much of the debate on ``must'' and ``may'' has already taken place I can be extremely brief. We simply wished to make the two parts of clause 3 fit if amendment No. 3 was accepted. The Government did not accept it. We wanted to put the amendment on the amendment paper so that were the Government at a later stage and on more mature consideration to accept our general thinking, they could make subsection (5) fit with it as well. It is purely consequential on our amendment No. 3.

I am sure that the Minister will not accept this amendment, having rejected the earlier one. Again, it comes to the same point: we do not want to impose a straitjacket on the director. We simply wish that the clause gave the director powers. The Bill is extremely didactic and dogmatic. If that is the way that the Government want to go, so be it. I simply offer the amendment by way of consistency with amendment No. 3.

The Chairman: Is the hon. Gentleman not moving the amendment?

Mr. Hawkins: I am moving it, as it important that it be on the record.

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Let me take this opportunity to set out some of our thinking. The amendment would mean that the director would not be required to provide training in financial investigation or in the operation of the Bill. Under the Bill as currently drafted the director must provide for training in financial investigation. That will be delivered by means of a centre of excellence that will be established within the agency to carry out training and accreditation. A development manager for financial investigation has been appointed to the Home Office to oversee improvements in the delivery of training in advance of the legislation and to undertake planning for the centre of excellence.

Mr. Hawkins: It would be helpful if we could be given some details of the person whom the Minister has just mentioned and his background. That would provide a helpful indication of the way in which the Government are moving in relation to future appointments.

Mr. Ainsworth: The issue is already in the public domain. The person who has been appointed as the development manager is Mr. Charlie Dickin, formerly a detective inspector of Avon and Somerset constabulary fraud squad. He has taken up his post on secondment. We are not trying with that appointment to circumvent the decisions that will subsequently be taken about the direction of the agency but I hope that the hon. Gentleman realises or would accept that there are certain things that can be done by administration to lift our game on the recovery of the proceeds of crime. We do not want the measures that are provided in the Bill simply to come into a totally flat situation. We want to see agencies applying themselves and thinking about how the proceeds of crime can be better pursued in advance of the legislative framework that will enable them to go much further.

The director must also provide training to investigators and others on the operation of the legislation, in addition to other training on the provisions that will be given in advance of the implications for Crown Prosecution Service staff, for example. He will fund training activities from his general budget but will also have the power to charge for accreditation and monitoring, for example, where they are provided to the private sector. The purpose of the training will be to improve the standards and effectiveness of financial investigation and to ensure that people are aware of their powers under the legislation. Training will have a significant impact on the recovery of the proceeds of crime and should lead to the recovery of more criminal assets.

Financial investigation requires specialist skills. The PIU report concluded that among the reasons why financial investigation was under-used was a shortage of people with the right skills and the wide variety in the extent of training provided by agencies. That is why the director will be required to provide training in financial investigation. Training will have to be delivered in a consistent and co-ordinated way, which will increase the effectiveness of financial investigation. Although the director cannot be the only person providing training on the operation of the legislation, it makes sense for him to provide such training under the other limb of the training remit. The training is likely to be particularly relevant to financial investigators but could be opened up to other sectors if there were sufficient interest.

The Bill will help to ensure that financial investigators are trained to a consistently high standard and that the powers in the Bill are widely understood. Only if they are understood will they be as widely used as we hope. Training is an essential part of delivering the Bill's aims. In our view, the importance of the director's training function, in terms of financial training and training in the operation of the Bill, justifies requiring him to provide training. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Hawkins: The Minister's guidance was helpful. I am grateful to him for answering on the hoof, as it were, and giving details of the development director on secondment. I shall not repeat the points that I made on amendment No. 3. The two amendments stand or fall together. We will probably have to return to the issues, but in the light of the Minister's comments, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

        Further consideration adjourned.—[Mrs. McGuire.]

        Adjourned accordingly at two minutes to One o'clock till this day at half-past Four o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
McWilliam, Mr. John (Chairman)
Ainsworth, Mr. Bob
Baird, Vera
Baker, Norman
Brooke, Mrs.
Carmichael, Mr.
Clark, Mrs. Helen
David, Mr.
Davidson, Mr.
Field, Mr. Mark
Foulkes, Mr.
Grieve, Mr.
Harris, Mr. Tom
Hawkins, Mr.
Hesford, Stephen
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Lazarowicz, Mr.
Lucas, Ian
McCabe, Mr.
McGuire, Mrs.
Robertson, John
Stinchcombe, Mr.
Stoate, Dr.
Tredinnick, Mr.
Wilshire, Mr.

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