Proceeds of Crime Bill

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Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Pollok): Can we clarify whether the hon. Gentleman is speaking on behalf of his profession or the Opposition? Was he elected to Parliament on behalf of his profession or his party?

3.15 pm

The Chairman: Order. We do not want to enter into that subject.

Mr. Grieve: I take the hon. Gentleman's question as an indication of his complete failure to understand what I was saying. I serve on the Committee to argue points on behalf of the public and my constituents and according to my conscience. I also bring my experiences to bear, just as he and all Members of the House do.

I am certainly not arguing on behalf of my profession. For all I know, the Bar Council might be horrified to hear my argument. I do not know what the Law Society would think about it. The issue was raised by the Chartered Institute of Taxation, who are linked to neither the Law Society nor the Criminal Bar Association of England and Wales—or the Scottish branches of the profession, for that matter. It is not an argument that favours the legal profession commercially. If the amendment were accepted, one might see a further removal of specialist tax work away from the legal profession towards specialist accountants.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Davidson) has got the wrong end of the stick. I am making the argument because I could see that the

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Chartered Institute of Taxation has a point. It will be more difficult for it to provide specialist tax advice under the new regime, because although it does an effectively identical job to that done by a solicitor, who provides the same advice, a solicitor will be subject to legal professional privilege protection, whereas the Chartered Institution of Taxation will not enjoy it. For that reason, the Minister may wish to consider whether that aspect should be reviewed. I shall not take up any more of the Committee's time. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: No. 520, in page 187, line 41, at end insert—

    '(c) the amount of money involved does not exceed £1,000'.—[Mr. Grieve.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 13.

Division No. 31]

AYES
Baker, Norman Field, Mr. Mark Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Tredinnick, Mr. David Wilshire, Mr. David

NOES
Ainsworth, Mr. Bob Baird, Vera Clark, Mrs. Helen Davidson, Mr. Ian Foulkes, Mr. George Harris, Mr. Tom Hesford, Stephen
Lucas, Ian McGuire, Mrs. Anne Robertson, John Stinchcombe, Mr. Paul Stoate, Dr. Howard Watson, Mr. Tom

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Grieve: I beg to move amendment No. 490, in page 187, line 42, leave out subsection (6).

I need not trouble the Committee with the amendment, but the Minister may wish to amplify some of his previous remarks. The amendment was designed to be probing. It was intended to elicit details from the Minister about the guidance that might be provided by the supervisory authority for the benefit of practitioners. I am the first to accept that, during a debate on Tuesday, the Minister provided relevant details. However, I would be much happier if the Committee could have as much detail as possible. If the Minister has additional information, which will help the Committee to understand how the guidance mechanism will work, I should be grateful to hear it. However, I do not want to trouble the Committee further. The amendment is probing, and, subject to hearing the Minister's comments, I shall withdraw it. It was never my purpose or intention to lose the advantage that comes from having guidance published.

Mr. Ainsworth: That was a helpful contribution. I shall therefore try to satisfy the hon. Gentleman.

As I explained, since 1990, guidance notes on money laundering have been issued to the regulated institutions by the industry's joint money laundering steering group, which includes representatives from all the leading trade associations of the UK financial industry. Clause 324 recognises the potential value of that guidance. The guidance that the court will consider must be issued by the supervisory authority

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or another appropriate body, approved by the Treasury and published in the appropriate manner, so that it can be brought to the attention of the people affected by it. A list of the supervisory authorities will be found in part 2 of schedule 6. The appropriate body is defined in subsection (11). The Treasury will approve the guidance in its capacity as the Government Department with overall lead responsibility for money laundering policy in the regulated sector. It is important to note that the guidance provided for in subsection (6) is intended to be a comprehensive document, which should explain the new responsibilities in full.

All practitioners should be familiar with the guidance notes, which are expected to include a definition of the term ''reasonable grounds'' and examples of situations in which it would be appropriate to report. The existence of guidance notes will provide additional security for those working in the regulated sector. It would be reasonable to expect that if employees had followed the guidance, and did not know or suspect that money laundering was taking place, they would not be convicted of a failure to report such an offence. The guidance will be approved formally by Ministers so that it has the necessary status for use in court proceedings.

However, industry input will be vital in ensuring that practical concerns are effectively met. The notes will therefore be written, as before, by the body set up by the industry. The guidance will then be submitted to the new money laundering advisory committee, which, it is anticipated, will meet for the first time in April this year. That committee will offer recommendations to Ministers before final approval. I hope that that amplifies my earlier comments.

Mr. Grieve: I am grateful to the Minister for his comments, which are helpful. I note that he said that if somebody had followed the guidance, and did not know or suspect, he would not be prosecuted. That may provide a measure of reassurance, although, as the Minister will realise, it does not persuade me on the main issue in relation to negligence and clause 324. However, I am grateful to the Minister for having placed his comments on the record, which amplify slightly some of the remarks that he made on Tuesday. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Grieve: I beg to move amendment No. 491, in page 188, line 6, leave out 'employer' and insert—

    'place of work'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following: Amendment No. 100, in page 188, line 6, after 'employer', insert—

    'or, as the case may be, his firm, company or voluntary organisation.'.

Amendment No. 492, in page 188, line 8, leave out 'employment' and insert—

    'work'.

Amendment No. 493, in page 188, line 8, after 'employment', insert—

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    'or, as the case may be, his activity with the firm, company or voluntary organisation'.

Amendment No. 494, in page 188, line 9, leave out 'employer' and insert—

    'place of work'.

Amendment No. 495, in page 188, line 9, after 'employer', insert—

    'or, as the case may be, his firm, company or voluntary organisation'.

Amendment No. 501, in clause 327, page 189, line 29, after 'employer', insert—

    'or, as the case may be, his firm, company or voluntary organisation'.

Amendment No. 502, in page 189, line 31, after 'employment', insert—

    'or, as the case may be, his activity with the firm, company or voluntary organisation'.

Amendment No. 503, in page 189, line 32, after 'employer', insert—

    'or, as the case may be, his firm, company or voluntary organisation'.

Amendment No. 506, in clause 328, page 190, line 15, after 'employer', insert—

    'or, as the case may be, his firm, company or voluntary organisation'.

Amendment No. 507, in page 190, line 17, after 'employment', insert—

    'or, as the case may be, his activity with the firm, company or voluntary organisation'.

Amendment No. 508, in page 190, line 18, after 'employer', insert—

    'or, as the case may be, his firm, company or voluntary organisation'.

Government amendments Nos. 512 to 514.

Mr. Grieve: This group of amendments deals with an issue not of principle, but of good practice. I hope therefore that the Opposition amendments will commend themselves to the Government. Under the clause, a person is protected if he makes a disclosure to a nominated officer as soon as possible after the information comes to him. It states:

    ''A disclosure to a nominated officer is a disclosure which—

    (a) is made to a person nominated by the alleged offender's employer to receive disclosures under this section, and

    (b) is made in the course of the alleged offender's employment and in accordance with the procedure established by the employer for the purpose.''

Both those paragraphs presuppose that a person is an employee within an organisation. However, there are several types of organisation that may have a nominated officer, without there necessarily being a relationship of employer to employee within that organisation. That is why I have tabled the amendments.

Amendments Nos. 491 and 100 are the most important, because the others are consequential. Amendment No. 491 would leave out the word ''employer'' and replace it with the phrase ''place of work''. Under amendment No. 100, after ''employer'' would be inserted:

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    ''or, as the case may be, his firm, company or voluntary organisation.''

Mr. Stinchcombe: Is the hon. Gentleman's concern met by Government amendment No. 514?

Mr. Grieve: Yes, that would go some way to meeting my worry—although I would have been interested to see the Government's amendment earlier. My amendment was tabled before the Minister's amendment, so I do not see why I should not move mine and speak to it. There may be common ground between us. We must deal with voluntary organisations and partnerships, because they have not been adequately covered. Mindful of the fact that, as I said, my amendment was tabled before his, I await the Minister's response.

 
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