Proceeds of Crime Bill

[back to previous text]

The Chairman: Order.

Mr. Davidson: Did I speak for too long?

The Chairman: The hon. Gentleman should not catch his constituents' bad habits. That was too long for an intervention.

Mr. Hawkins: The hon. Gentleman's aim of hitting serious criminals is right, but I am sorry to say that we have a plain disagreement on the subject. Opposition Members believe that an Englishman's home is his castle. Perhaps a Scotsman in Glasgow, Pollock does not regard his home in that way.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne): Is my hon. Friend aware that one of the hallmarks of fascist dictatorships is the knock on the door, which is subsequently bashed down? Another is the lack of justice. We must stand up for liberty—which does not mean that we are standing up for criminals.

Mr. Hawkins: My hon. Friend is right.

We would have no problem if clause 252—and, in the case of Scotland, clause 260—and schedule 3 were in the form that the Minister, in his usual reasonable way, suggests, and clause 252 had provided that when the interim administrator goes before the court to request his general power, he must have a specified list of premises, and would have to go back if he wanted to examine other premises. That is precisely the point that the hon. Members for Wellingborough and for Orkney and Shetland, as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield and I, have made. However, that is not what clause 252 provides. It does not have that reasonable drafting.

In due course, having considered the matter with his officials, the Minister may decide, rather than redrafting schedule 3, to redraft clauses 252 and 260 as he suggests that they are drafted but they are not. We might then find a way of solving the problem. However, as things stand, clause 252 gives the interim administrator a general power from the court. In effect, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok has what he wants. The Minister may claim that he has not, but the interim administrator, having acquired his powers, has the power to enter any premises in the United Kingdom to take any of the steps specified, which I shall not tediously repeat. He does not have to go back to the court. That is why there is a problem.

Mr. Stinchcombe: Does the hon. Gentleman not understand that the power is not given by the Bill? The Bill does not authorise the entering of any premises. That power is vested in the court in the exercise of its discretion, on whatever terms and with whatever limitations it believes appropriate, specifying whatever premises or property it is persuaded to specify.

12.15 pm

Mr. Hawkins: The problem is that nothing in the Bill tells the court that in giving that power to the interim administrator it must specify a list of premises. Of course it might of its own volition do so, but we want to ensure that safeguards are provided to protect the innocent so that, as with a search warrant, if someone wants to search premises they must have the court's permission. We should not have an Act of Parliament that gives a person the power, after going to the court the first time for a general power—which need not be specific, because clause 252 does not force the court to make it specific—to search any premises in the United Kingdom.

We have a straight choice between preserving the rights of the innocent, which have been hallowed for generations in English law, and giving powers that are far too draconian. I wish to press the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 12.

Division No. 19]

Field, Mr. Mark Grieve, Mr. Dominic Hawkins, Mr. Nick
Johnson, Mr. Boris Tredinnick, Mr. David Wilshire, Mr. David

Ainsworth, Mr. Bob Carmichael, Mr. Alistair Clark, Mrs. Helen David, Mr. Wayne Davidson, Mr. Ian Foulkes, Mr. George
Harris, Mr. Tom McCabe, Mr. Stephen McGuire, Mrs. Anne Robertson, John Stinchcombe, Mr. Paul Watson, Mr. Tom

Question accordingly negatived.

The Chairman, being of the opinion that the principle of the schedule and any matters arising thereon had been adequately discussed in the course of debate on the amendments proposed thereto, forthwith put the Question, pursuant to Standing Orders Nos. 68 and 89, That this schedule, as amended, be the Third schedule to the Bill.

Question agreed to.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 253 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 254

Supervision of interim receiver

and variation of order

[Mr. Stephen McCabe in the Chair]

Mr. Grieve: I beg to move amendment No. 350, in page 148, line 43, leave out 'interested in' and insert 'affected by'.

The clause provides for the supervision of the interim receiver and variations of orders. Subsection (3) states:

    ''The court may at any time vary or set aside an interim receiving order.''

However, subsection (4) states:

    ''Before doing so, the court must (as well as giving the respondent and any other party to the proceedings an opportunity to be heard) give such an opportunity to the interim receiver and to any person who may be interested in the court's decision.''

The amendment would delete the words ''interested in'' and replace them with the words ''affected by''.

The amendment is probing. I want clarification from the Minister on what category of person would be considered interested in the decision. If the amendment were made, how would that change the situation? I want clarification on the category of individuals who could intervene in proceedings and ask to be heard.

The matter is important because it is essential that any person who is likely to be adversely affected should have the opportunity to be heard, which is why I prefer the term that I proposed in the amendment. However, if the Minister gives me reassurance, I will accept that the terms may be equivalent.

Mr. Ainsworth: Thank you, Mr. McCabe, for standing in for Mr. McWilliam.

[Mr. John McWilliam in the Chair]

A small part of the hon. Gentleman's speech really annoyed me, or, at least, it will if he pursues it. He said that we are considering a probing amendment. Last week, he complained that, in all his years as a Member of Parliament, he had never heard a Minister stand up and say that he accepted an amendment. He said that that does not happen.

I accept the amendment. If the hon. Gentleman insists on an explanation, he is obviously right that his wording is better. The only caveat is that there is a need for a consequent change with regard to Scotland. If the hon. Gentleman agrees, I will not pursue him down the road of probing, but simply introduce that requirement, in order to bring the Scottish provisions in line with the Grieve double star XO amendment.

Mr. Grieve: The Minister has made my Christmas. I am delighted that he thinks that ''affected by'' is a better wording. I think that it is, as I explained previously.

Mr. Carmichael: I invite the Minister to invite the hon. Member for Beaconsfield to quit while he is ahead.

Mr. Ainsworth: There is no more to be said.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 254, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 255

Restrictions on dealing etc. with property

Mr. Grieve: I beg to move amendment No. 351, in page 149, line 2, leave out 'must' and insert 'may'.

The Chairman: With this it may be convenient to take amendment No. 386, in clause 263, page 152, line 20, leave out 'must' and insert 'may'.

Mr. Grieve: We come to the clause on restrictions on dealing with property during receivership. Clearly, the purpose of an interim order is that it should ordinarily prevent and restrict dealings with property, so that the property is not dissipated prior to the civil recovery proceedings taking place. It is also important that, in the interests of justice, as far as is possible before a final determination of any case has occurred, an individual should not be prejudiced or penalised by being prevented from meeting reasonable living expenses or carrying on his trade or business. Until the final determination of the issue and civil recovery, that person is entitled to the presumption that he is properly enjoying his assets and able to use them. For that reason we have tabled several amendments. Although they are being grouped separately—an arrangement with which I have no difficulty—they are, to an extent, interlinked as they offer a series of choices to the Committee as to how to approach an issue that may be of some complexity.

Amendments Nos. 351 and 386 would simply provide that it is a mandatory requirement that any person affected by the restriction on dealing should be able to

    ''meet his reasonable living expenses, or . . . to carry on any trade, business, profession or occupation, and''—

I stress this—

    ''may be made subject to conditions.''

I stress that last phrase because ''subject to conditions'' means that the individual would never have a complete freedom to do as he chose. Nevertheless, there would be a requirement that he should be able to do those two things. It should be borne in mind that we are not talking about criminal proceedings—the person is not likely to end up going to prison. Ordinarily, such individuals will outwardly be leading a respectable existence.

It might also be relevant to split the position of the respondent in the proceedings from that of any other person affected by the order. We shall discuss that issue when we debate the next set of amendments. With regard to the current batch of amendments, we should consider whether it should be mandatory for the order to allow for reasonable living expenses and the carrying on of a trade, business, profession or occupation subject to conditions. As a matter of principle, I believe that a person should be able

    ''to meet his reasonable living expenses''


    ''carry on any trade, business, profession or occupation''.

I believe that I can anticipate some of the Minister's arguments, but I should like that to be the goal that we aim at, even if the Minister informs us that it may lead to circumstances in which assets are dissipated.

If I cannot persuade the Minister of the case for the amendments, I shall not press them to a Division. Amendment No. 386 mirrors amendment No. 351 in respect of Scotland. When we move to the next group of amendments, I shall consider whether it would be proper for the respondent's proceedings to split from those of any other person affected by the receiving order.

Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 18 December 2001