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Annabelle Ewing: I understand that to a considerable extent those who work in the financial services sector are already subject to stringent requirements and reporting duties. It may be that the proposed legislation will beef up the relevant provisions to an extent.
The hon. Gentleman cites back-office staff. Surely the first people in a financial institution who would be well aware of their duties under existing money-laundering legislation would be back-office staff.
Mr. Ruffley: The hon. Lady states the obvious, but is she suggesting that every employee at every branch, however small it might be, in every village, market town, town or cityfor example, every member of the Natwest bank or the Halifaxwill receive the appropriate training? If she is, I fear that she has probably missed the point.
It is clear that people may slip through the net, and that is the point that I am making. It is the point that the hon. Lady made powerfully. She talked about credit unions and volunteers. The clause could easily catch such individuals. The Minister is shaking his head. If he thinks that we are wrong and that the credit union point is wrong, he will be able to say so. I am sure that he would want to do so. It is a point that needs answering.
Training has been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve). We are invited to believe that individuals who want to pray in aid the defence set up by Government amendment No. 93 will have to prove a negative. I shall be interested to hear the Minister explain how individuals might easily and conveniently do that. The amendment does not give us any clue how that process might work. I would appreciate the hon. Gentleman's answer to that question.
John Robertson: I thought that the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) was churlish when he attacked the Scottish nationalists. After all, three SNP Members have been in the Chamber for two days in a row, and that must be a record.
I am not a lawyer. I speak on behalf of victims who cannot speak for themselves. These are people who have already passed on and others who are drugged up to the eyeballs and cannot speak for themselves, and the families whom tried to support these people. These are the people whom I try to represent.
New clause 7 deals with a grey area, and in my opinion the purpose behind it is to try to cloud the issue. I feel that we are trying to introduce lesser sentences for those who deserve to be sentenced correctly. Clause 330 covers the rights of individuals, especially those who come into contact with those who have a criminal life style.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Scotland Office and I visited the Drug Enforcement Agency in Scotland. We had a long and frank discussion with representatives of it. It was amazing to me how they mirrored the discussion that took place when I and my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Davidson) and for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Harris) visited Strathclyde police force. I commend the deputy chief constable, Graham Pearson. It was said that part of the problem rested with
Having read amendments Nos. 71 and 72, it strikes me that they are an attempt to introduce as a defence the claim, "I didn't know. I couldn't tell." That would take us down the road of a nice little fine and the person charged getting off.
(a) on which his knowledge or suspicion is based, or
(b) which gives reasonable grounds for such knowledge or suspicion,
came to him in the course of a business in the regulated sector."
John Robertson: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I am sure that the Minister will be pleased to hear that. However, as was said on many occasions in Committee, the amendments give the impression that the Opposition are the criminal's friend.
Reference has been made to a level 5 sentence, which is a maximum fine of £5,000. I should have thought that the Opposition, especially the Conservative party, with its law and order ethics, would want a punishment to fit the crime. A maximum £5,000 fine for someone who earns treble that in a week hardly seems a sufficient sentence for that person, particularly if the case involved severe negligence or fell just short of an offence having knowingly been committed.
Mr. Carmichael: With regard to the maximum sentence of a £5,000 fine, may I point out to the hon. Gentleman that that would apply in summary procedure which, by definition, applies only to the less serious offences? If it is appropriate as the maximum fine for any other offence on summary procedure, it must be appropriate for this offence on summary procedure. If it were on solemn procedure, an unlimited fine would be applicable.
Norman Baker: Does the hon. Gentleman accept, however, that there ought to be a difference in the penalty applied to someone who wilfully commits an offence and to someone who inadvertently commits the same offence?
John Robertson: I thank the hon. Gentleman, but I do not see his point. The case will be heard, evidence will be taken, and the judge and jury will determine whether the accused is guilty or innocent. Depending on the severity of the offence, the judge will hand down a sentence to match the error of that person's ways.
In conclusion, the debate in Committee on clause 330 left me bewildered. We spent an inordinate amount of time on the matter, during which time I wrote myself a note, which states, "I have given up the will to live." I see that we are going through the same debate again.
Mr. Wilshire: If the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Stinchcombe) had been more willing to give way, it might have been unnecessary for me to speak. The thought of people giving up the will to live was also something of an invitation for me to contribute.
Quite a while ago, I sought to intervene on the hon. Member for Wellingborough when he dismissed the view that the Opposition seek not to delete the offence of negligence, but to provide for it in a different way. After doing so, he made two observations. First, he said that he would not give way again because there would be no time to debate other matters if he did so. I must respond that it is not Opposition Members who determine guillotines, but Labour Members. If there is not enough time for him to do what he believes needs to be done, he should address his views to his Front Bench rather than complain to us. Secondly, he implied that it did not matter what we were proposing now, but that he held against us permanently the fact that we had made the same proposal before. That is very unfortunate. The Committee's proceedings were marked by the fact that the Government often listened to what Opposition Members said, accepted that we had made very good points and changed their mind. If he can support his own Government when they change their mind, he should not criticise us when the force of his argument helps us along.
Mr. Stinchcombe: I welcome the U-turn on the Tory Benches, but I was worried that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) seemed to be slipping back and suggesting that, despite the Opposition's grudging acceptance of an offence of negligence, there were still objections in principle.
Mr. Wilshire: My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) advanced the entire argument, but the fact remains that, like the Minister, we are sometimes prepared to say that we have heard and accepted what has been said. Just as I have thanked the Minister on a number of occasions for changing his mind and listening to what we say, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will manage
The process of 39 Committee sittings has begun to get me thinking sometimes like the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Davidson); I noticed a while ago that he was busily writing and I hope that I am not about to pinch his speech off him. I am not so sure that there should be such universal enthusiasm among Labour Members for Government amendment No. 93. I learned in Committee that if one thinks long enough about anything that is proposed in an amendment to this Bill, one will see it as a loophole. None the less, I invite him, the Minister and other Labour Members who want to support their Front Bench to ask themselves whether Government amendment No. 93 can be used as a loophole.
I am an unscrupulous employer. [Laughter.] I am not, but let us assume that I am such an employer for the purposes of this argument and that I decide to become involved in money laundering, but do not want the powers of the Bill to affect me. The Government are now saying that if an employee has not been properly trained, he has a defence. Let us imagine that, as an unscrupulous employer, I ensure that some of my employees who are party to what is happening are not trained. I then let them do what is necessary.