Proceeds of Crime Bill

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Mr. Wilshire: The Minister suggests that I go off at tangents, but he prefers to do U-turns. In response to my earlier intervention, he said that the provision could not be used for any other enactment; I made a note of that. He did not say why. Will he tell me why he said that it could not be used for any other enactment, and then gave us examples of how things have been used for other enactments? He cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Foulkes: With respect, I do not think that I was trying to have it both ways. The hon. Gentleman may have misunderstood what I said. It was logical, and his hon. Friends the legal experts did not jump up and down and challenge me.

10.45 am

Talking of legal experts, I shall now deal with the question asked by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield. The clause is drafted in such a way that we can confer functions on prosecutors only for the specific purpose of cross-border enforcement. The example that I gave shows the benefit of such a provision, and the sense in having it. In the example, specific provisions were

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taken from general land law and applied solely to the provisions that relate to the registration of a Scottish restraint order by an English court. There was no need for a more general application because the situation to which that applies is very narrow. In a parallel situation, it could have been of benefit to allow for the modification of the provisions imported, or to amend the primary legislation, as necessary, to achieve the purpose of the clause, which is enforcement in different parts of the United Kingdom.

Although the Orders in Council may amend legislation, and subsection (4) may at first sight seem, as the hon. Member for Spelthorne thought, to be a wide power, that is not the case because subsections (1) and (3) specifically restrict the scope of what may be included in the order. I hope that that reassures Conservative Members, particularly the hon. Member for Spelthorne.

Mr. Hawkins: The Minister's response was, as always, thorough and witty. I enjoyed his company over a glass of beer last night, and he may be right to imply that we should have been discussing the Bill, rather than such happy matters as rugby and beer. However, he is wrong to say that Conservative Members are happy with his response just because he pointed to a couple of examples in other legislation. I am grateful for his examples, but does he understand that our worry about the breadth of the power remains?

Mr. Foulkes: May I say in passing that if the hon. Gentleman thinks that after Saturday, talking about rugby is pleasant for a Scotsman, he has another think coming? It is all right for him.

I was not relying on the example alone. I also said that although the power may seem wide at first sight, it is not. Subsections (1) and (3) specifically restrict the scope of what may be included. The example was not my only argument; I used it to illustrate the situation. In reality the power is not wide, although I accept that it may look as if it is. In the light of my explanation, I hope that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield will feel it appropriate to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Wilshire: I am grateful to the Minister for responding to my questions, but unfortunately, he did not address all of them. I too consorted with him last night but, for reasons that I cannot fathom, he did not buy me a beer—perhaps now I understand why. I had assumed that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok was recovering from Saturday, which might have explained his absence.

The Chairman: Order. There is a limit to which this Chairman is prepared to allow any member of the Committee to intrude on private grief.

Mr. Wilshire: I could not follow that even if I were allowed to, but I understand what you mean, Mr. Gale.

My worry remains, because I have not received an adequate explanation. Hansard will record that the Minister said that the power could not be used for any other enactment. It was disturbing that that was simply offered to me as a comment. Apparently I should not worry, and should accept the

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Government's word, because they have said that the power cannot be used. I have not received a satisfactory justification for that assertion.

Mr. Foulkes: What I said was, ''The effect of the amendment would be that an Order in Council made under the clause could not be used to amend or apply, with or without modifications, any other enactment.'' I was merely trying to help the Committee by outlining the effect of the amendment.

Mr. Wilshire: We are gradually teasing out an answer from the Minister, and putting more flesh on the argument. He has said before, and said again today, that I tend to go off at several tangents. I make no apologies for that. I know how much money has been made in Texas by drilling lots of holes until oil came out of one of them. I have always applied that principle to my political debates. There are issues at stake, although some may not be as relevant as others, and I do not apologise for scrutinising the Bill and asking all sorts of questions in the hope that the hon. Gentleman will answer them.

I still do not understand the Minister's argument. Even if there are safeguards, and even if he can persuade us that the powers apply only to cross-border arrangements, why is it necessary to do things by order rather than under the Bill? The Minister moved away from my narrow point to discuss some more general points. Other issues in the clause need to be debated, but for the moment I shall confine myself to the issue under discussion. Will he have one more go at explaining how, if the provision will not affect other legislation, he can give examples of how such provisions have done just that in the past?

Mr. Stinchcombe: I have some concerns about subsection (4), but they are not the same as those of the hon. Member for Spelthorne, because it seems absolutely clear that the power under the subsection is restricted by the rest of the clause, so that the order can be made only for certain purposes. Those purposes are adequately restricted under the clause.

It worries me that we are creating a power to amend primary legislation by delegated legislation. That raises a question of principle, because ordinarily the tail does not wag the dog, and ordinarily we amend and pass primary legislation only through the proper procedures of the House. I understand that the procedures extend far enough to enable us to do that by order, but that is an unusual route, and I wonder why it has been chosen in this case.

Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland): I was interested to hear the analogy that the hon. Member for Spelthorne drew between his approach and that of Texan oil men. I had long suspected that the hon. Gentleman thought that if he bored for long enough, he might get somewhere.

I agree more with the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Stinchcombe). I accept what the Minister says about the narrow application of the orders that can be made under subsection (4), but we are dealing with an important principle. It is wrong for us to seek to amend primary legislation by means of secondary legislation, and I do not understand how the provision would affect the implementation or

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enforcement of orders obtained in a different part of the United Kingdom. Nothing that the Minister has said, not even about the narrow application envisaged under subsection (4), has assuaged my doubts.

Mr. Foulkes: I shall try once again. [Interruption.] I am sure that I will not convince hon. Members if they do not listen. I hope that even the hon. Member for The Spectator agrees that in order to be convinced, it is necessary for hon. Members to listen to the arguments rather than to engage in badinage—to use one of the Committee's favourite words—with those sitting next to them.

The provision is not new. As I have said, it was previously necessary under property law.

Mr. Wilshire: I am sure that the Minister does not want us accept the argument that the fact that we have done something wrong in the past justifies repeating the mistake.

Mr. Foulkes: I did not that; I said that we were not doing anything new. What we propose has been done before and already exists in legislation. Nobody, least of all the hon. Member for Spelthorne, has drawn any problems to the attention of this Government or previous Governments. If such a provision had been causing trouble, people would have been chapping—that means knocking—at our doors telling us of the immense trouble that it had caused. That has not happened.

We cannot possibly know at this stage what consequential amendments will be needed to related legislation, but they would need to be within the scope of subsections (1) to (3). That is the safeguard sought by Opposition Members, and I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough that if only a narrow confine is affected, that should be sufficient safeguard. I hope that Opposition Members will not press their amendment.

Mr. Wilshire: I am grateful to the Minister. However, he may be sorry that he asked me to listen to him, because one of his justifications for getting us to withdraw the amendment is that it will not do any harm to leave things as they are. He then said, ''We do not know what we might want to use it for.'' Surely the Government cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Foulkes: With respect, the hon. Gentleman's paraphrase of what I allegedly said is incorrect. Indeed, it is a travesty. I did not say that the provision would not do any harm. If he is listening, he should listen more carefully. The degree of detail required would be far too great to include in the Bill. Surely it is better to provide flexibility so that the system works properly.

Even in the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok, I sometimes wonder whether Opposition Members really want the Bill to be effective. We do, and we believe that cross-border implementation is vital. Concerns have been expressed to me—as they will have been to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael)—about the frustration of law enforcement agencies when someone

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slips from Scotland to England, or vice versa, to avoid being brought to book. I hope that hon. Members will accept that.

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