Failure to Prevent an Economic Criminal Offence

Part of Criminal Finances Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 21st February 2017.

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Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough 3:00 pm, 21st February 2017

Very few. I am diverting myself, because I deliberately said “a cloud in every silver lining” not “a silver lining in every cloud.”

The short point is that schedule 17 to the 2013 Act contains about 50 economic and financial criminal offences that can be dealt with through deferred prosecution agreements between either the Crown Prosecution Service or the SFO on the one hand and corporations—that is to say respondents and defendants that are not human beings—on the other. Those offences are perfectly capable of being moved across into the failure to prevent regime. As I said, section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010 makes it an offence to fail to prevent bribery, and we are about to have an offence of failing to prevent a tax offence, so why not—I ask rhetorically on this occasion—extend the failure to prevent regime across to these other offences? New clause 3 does exactly the same, save that it limits the offences to those set out in its subsection (2).

New clauses 4, 14 and 15 contain provisions suggested by Catherine McKinnell that broadly address the same issue that I am discussing. I will not press new clause 2 to a Division, because these are probing amendments designed to create a public discussion, and I hope that they will inform the Ministry of Justice’s discussion paper. I also hope that they will encourage the Home Office and the Minister, with whom I have had some useful discussions about this and other matters to do with the Bill, to consider carefully and positively the extension of the failure to prevent regime.

The wheels of Whitehall move extremely slowly. Everyone has to be consulted nowadays and nobody is allowed to have an idea of their own without it being beaten up and pushed through the roller by every other Department that thinks it has an interest or half an interest in what somebody else wants to do. People should try to produce a piece of legislation as a Law Officer. Law Officers are not supposed to have any policies; they are simply supposed to sit in a cupboard, the door of which is occasionally opened to get an answer and then shut again with them inside. Fortunately, however, I was able to bring forward deferred prosecution agreements. I hope, as a very much ex-Law Officer, that I will encourage the Government to take a positive view of the principles behind the new clauses, not only because I want that but because they represent an efficient and effective way of assisting the SFO, which is one of the most valuable and effective prosecution agencies in the western world, to do its job of ensuring that both bad people and bad companies are brought to justice. I hope to hear positive things from my hon. Friend the Minister, from whom I have never heard anything else.