|Proceeds of Crime Bill
Mr. Davidson: That is vital. It is crucial that that be made explicit, and it be put beyond the ability of the courts to reinterpret Parliament's intention. It should be absolutely explicit that any assets that someone has are liable to be seized to repay the amount from which they are assessed as having benefited through crime.
Mr. Johnson: A split seems to be opening up in the Labour ranks. I distinctly heard the Minister say that there was no question of taking away property except in so far as it had been illegally obtained. However, if I understand the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok correctly, he is saying that he wants everything that a criminal has to be up for grabs, and that all assets are fungible and may be taken away. He would not support the insertion of the word ``illegally'' in the reference to property in subsection (2)(b).
Mr. Davidson: I thank the hon. Member for Henleyand for The Spectator, South(Mr. Johnson) for raising that issue. I may be expressing myself poorly, but let us suppose that someone who had obtained assets as a result of criminal conduct argued that they were no longer available because they had been spent, and that the assets that were available had been obtained legitimately. That should not be a reason for someone to be allowed to go scot-free without paying any compensation. It has been said that there is a split between our Front and Back Benches. Well, there are occasions when Back Benchers are more in line with the mood of the country than some elements of the Mr. Softy tendency. On occasions, that tendency has been displayed in another placebut that description does not apply to the Ministers in this Committee.
I seek clarification from the Minister about the length of time. I am unclear about why reference is made in some parts of the Bill to a period of six years, as under clause 11. Does that apply to clause 9, or are someone's available assets counted back to the beginning of time or, as in the case of the hon. Member for Beaconsfield, to the second or third generation, when his family were stealing cattle and sheep? I was under the impression that he claimed Scottish ancestry. He said in his maiden speech that his relatives lived in Roxburghshire 400 years ago. He then went on:
Mr. Foulkes: Again, we have had an interesting debate. I accept that it is unlikely, but let us imagine that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield were convicted for being involved in criminal activities. If a confiscation order were taken out against him, it would not be appropriate to take account of the benefits that his long-deceased ancestors may have obtained from their alleged stealing of sheep and cattle. I hope that I have reassured the hon. Gentleman, if not my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok.
Mr. Grieve: I am small fry compared with my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), whose family made a huge fortune in the 16th century. They became such important thieves that they eventually received a peerage, which is fairly standard practice. However, my right hon. Friend would not be able to lay his hands on those assets now.
Mr. Foulkes: The right hon. Member for Devizes used to be my pair, and I know all about his background. Devizes is the third seat that he has represented in Parliament. No doubt it will be the last.
The Chairman: Order. The Chair is unaware of the existence of pairing.
Mr. Foulkes: Yes, and so are the Whips, at the moment.
I assure the hon. Member for Henley that there is no split between my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok and me on the matter. We are as one on the Bill, as we are on many matters.
Mr. Johnson: I do not understand how that can be the case, because the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok has already called the Minister Mr. Softy, if I understood him correctly. I direct the Minister's mind like a laser towards the hon. Gentleman's point. He believes that all assets owned by a criminal should be recoverable. However, the Minister believes that only assets that are the proceeds of crime should be recoverable. If a criminal can demonstrate that he has assets that are honestly gotten, should those assets not be recoverable?
Mr. Foulkes: I am about to address that point. I must do so quickly, before this becomes associated with the alleged split between the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, and who is on which side of that argument.
The Chairman: Order. Happily, those issues are definitely out of order.
Mr. Foulkes: In every way, Mr. Gale.
I can tell the hon. Member for Henley and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok that it does not matter if the criminal has spent the illegitimate money because even if it has been spent, it will still be counted for the purpose of calculating the benefit from criminal conduct. When calculating the available amount, we will examine all assets, whether they are legitimate or not.
As for the six-year period, when a person has a criminal lifestyle, we will examine his benefit from general criminal conduct. That represents all conduct, however far back it goes. Assumptions help in that assessment, but they are restricted to the six-year period.
Mrs. Helen Clark: Why was the six-year period chosen?
Mr. Foulkes: That is a very good question.
The Chairman: Order. It is an excellent questionand it can be addressed when we reach clause 11.
Mr. Foulkes: That is what I was about to say, Mr. Gale. We shall consider that question when we reach clause 11, which I am thankful to say is being dealt with by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary.
We could insert the word ``criminal'' before the word ``conduct'' in clause 9, because it is about the calculation of the benefit rather than the available amount. We may examine that idea. However, I hope that, following my explanations, the Committee will agree that clause 9 should stand part of the Bill.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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