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Lord Clinton-Davis: I do not understand the rationale behind the amendment. It is not as though magistrates and others who are concerned are unfamiliar with procedures abroad. Of course they are not, but they are not required to do anything about it. They are not required to go through the complex procedures that the noble Baroness has adduced. Frankly, I hesitate to say this but I do not believe that the noble Baroness knows what she is talking about.

Lord Goldsmith: Up until the last point, I had a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord,

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Lord Clinton-Davis, said. I would approach the noble Baroness's amendment as follows. Many provisions of this kind of legislation will require some degree of guidance and some degree of training. Perhaps I may pay tribute to the way that the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Judicial Studies Board frequently take on new legislation, recognise the training requirements for magistrates and for more senior judges and do an enormously important and valuable job. I have no doubt that, whatever training is required and whichever provision of the Bill we are dealing with, the necessary steps will be taken without any requirement for it to appear on the face of the Bill.

As the noble Baroness said, these provisions replicate those in the 1990 Act. Therefore, there may be no need for additional training, and it may not matter whether that is because everything is well understood or because of the reason given by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis.

I am also told that Home Office circulars will be drafted to deal with the procedures required by the new Act, if it becomes law. They will provide an additional source of information for those who have to operate them. I hope that those explanations provide some assurance for the noble Baroness as to the requirement.

Lord Clinton-Davis: I admire and love the noble Baroness enormously. I should not have said what I did. I am sure that she does know what she is talking about, but she should not have introduced this amendment.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: As always, I am very grateful for the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. He and I are good sparring partners from opposite sides of the House.

My concern is that sometimes, when reading the Bill, other people find themselves in even greater difficulty than we do when trying to interpret what is happening. Also, the underlying theme that I have taken throughout is that, on many occasions, we now find that our courts are unable to make decisions; decisions are being made for them. Perhaps we are hinting at that here.

Certainly this is a serious amendment from the point of view of highlighting the difficulty that courts face in taking decisions where they must have regard to procedures that may have taken place overseas. It is important for courts to ensure that they do not try to make the wrong decision where they have discretion.

I am grateful for the Minister's comments about training. I certainly agree that the Lord Chancellor's Department has set up training where necessary. It is important that there is a proper budget for that. But, frankly, more important in relation to this amendment is the noble and learned Lord's assurance with regard to the Home Office circulars being drafted for overseas procedures. I am aware that not every single court around the country will be involved in that. Therefore, there will be specialisation, as there is in extradition matters directed at particular Bow Street magistrates.

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As the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, will be relieved to hear, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 30:

    After Clause 9, insert the following new clause—

The Secretary of State shall appoint an independent person to make an annual report on the use of freezing orders and shall lay that report before Parliament when he receives it."

The noble Baroness said: This is a "special" for the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton. The amendment would require the Secretary of State to appoint an independent person to make an annual report to Parliament on the use of freezing orders. I am very conscious of the words of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, on 31st October last year. He said:

    "My Lords, it sometimes seems that if we are stuck for an amendment we call for an annual report".—[Official Report, 31/10/02; col. 405.]

Yet again, I promise that I am not stuck for one now. I could find many more but that would mean that the monologue would go on for ever and a day, and even I cannot take that.

In moving the amendment, I am conscious that the Government are introducing a new provision into United Kingdom law, the use of which should be considered in the light of operational experience as well as developments throughout the European Union once the Bill becomes an Act. At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, said:

    "The Bill will also introduce mutual recognition of orders to freeze evidence, as provided for by the EU's draft framework decision on the execution of orders freezing evidence. That is a major step forward that will significantly speed up the process of securing valuable evidence. Mutual recognition takes MLA one step further by recognising directly, as between EU member states, a request made by a court, so enabling a direct response with the minimum of formality".—[Official Report, 2/12/02; col. 973.]

Therefore, can the Government say how often they expect the powers contained in the Bill in relation to those domestic and overseas freezing orders to be used and whether they believe that the definitions used in the Bill, particularly the use of terms such as "substantial value" and,

    "likely to be admissible in evidence",

in Clause 10(3) and the use of the term,

    "any other authority in the country which appears to the territorial authority to have the function of making such orders",

in Clause 20(3) will require further consideration in the light of operational experience? Can the Minister tell the Committee the status of the draft framework decision and at what stage it is likely to become a decision rather than a draft decision? We need to be able to key into that kind of timetabling during our debates on the Bill. Is further legislation on these matters at the European level expected in the future or will the draft framework decision be the final word on the issue?

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As I said, the provisions in the Bill on freezing orders are a new and potentially important element in legislation. It is important that we get the matter right. When we introduce these provisions into United Kingdom domestic law—particularly those that depend on the actions of authorities in other countries—it is important that they are kept under scrutiny in order to ensure that they operate for the benefit of the United Kingdom and its citizens.

Therefore, although I accept that on this occasion calling for an annual report in the amendment—something that in future I shall always refer to as the "Bassam device"—is a device, I seriously ask what kind of scrutiny there will be in future. I beg to move.

Lord Clinton-Davis: Is there anything in any other member state of the European Union which resembles this provision?

6.45 p.m.

Lord Goldsmith: Perhaps the Committee will allow me to deal with the amendment and, in the course of that, to try to deal with a number of the questions raised, including the last one raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis.

The amendment would require the Secretary of State to appoint an independent person to report to him on the use of freezing orders, and it would require the Secretary of State to lay that report before Parliament. The Government's view is that such an obligation is unnecessary and, indeed, that it would create unnecessary bureaucracy, impose a burden on the Secretary of State and the department and would not produce any significant benefit.

Why do I say, "would not produce any significant benefit"? First, among the issues to which the noble Baroness referred is the question of whether or not it is envisaged that there would be difficulty with definitions such as "substantial value" and whether something is "likely" to have substantial value. Those are well-tested and well-tried expressions because they appear in the 1990 Act. Therefore, I see no reason why we should anticipate any difficulty in their application under the new hat in this new provision.

How often will there be orders? I cannot answer that question at present. It is possible that others will have a view. We shall see when they start to work. If they seem to work well, then no doubt the applications for them will increase because they will be a useful tool in the fight against crime. These orders achieve something that the traditional mutual legal assistance route can also achieve, although by a route which we do not consider to be as effective or speedy. Therefore, it may well be that the result will be an increase in the number of mutual legal assistance orders sought because, by being quick, they are being effective.

However, even without the need for an independent report, it will be possible for MPs and Members of the House of Lords to obtain information by tabling Parliamentary Questions. Therefore, if there is any concern about its use, that will provide a proper and

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existing method of scrutiny. That is perhaps a rather longer way of saying what my noble friend Lord Bassam said on another occasion.

I was also asked about the status of the framework decision. The framework decision on the freezing of assets and evidence has still not been adopted but I am told that it—and, in particular, the accompanying certificate—is in the final stages. It is hoped that it will be adopted at the earliest opportunity during the term of the Greek presidency.

The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, asked whether similar procedures exist in other countries. When the framework—

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