Obviously there is much in the Bill that deserves support, although some of it has come about through our self-inflicted wounds from Brexit. However, the greatest comment I will make is on the opportunities of what should be added and on what is currently missing. I endorse the comments of my hon. Friend Alison Thewliss and support points made by other Members, particularly those who spoke to amendments 4 and 30, which deal with economic and corporate crime.
We are in a difficult time at the present moment. People are suffering. They are making sacrifices. They welcome fixed penalties being given out to those who act rashly—sometimes stupidly, sometimes deliberately. Equally, they are aware that huge rip-offs are not being dealt with and remain unpunished, which causes a great deal of angst and upset, which needs to be addressed.
When I was Justice Secretary of Scotland, I recall that we set up a serious organised crime taskforce, with a model that has been replicated elsewhere and indeed has been extended to issues beyond serious organised crime. It had clear benefits, but there were also obstacles faced by law enforcement. It had the benefit of bringing together all the agencies, but they faced the same challenges. We had to recognise the extent of the challenge and bring in organisations that had previously been left out, from environmental protection through to local government. There were clear challenges in dealing with corporate crime. There is a lack of a legislative framework—there is insufficient legislation there—to allow Police Scotland, City of London police or police services elsewhere, or the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in Scotland, or indeed the Crown Prosecution Service south of the border, to carry out a diligent, good job. They lack the powers.
“As through this world I’ve wandered, I've seen lots of funny men.
Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen.”
The tragedy in this country is that it is usually quite easy to deal with those who rob you with a six-gun. Dealing with those who rob you with a fountain pen has proven far harder, which is why significant changes are required, because it is just not good enough that corporate criminals go unpunished, which we know happens. Anyone who has seen “The Inside Job”, which includes Matt Damon, will know the fraud that went on in the financial crash. We have seen LIBOR and forex. We have seen Serco.
Meanwhile, fixed penalty notices are issued for rash and stupid actions, and rightly so, but where is the responsibility being taken by the shareholders and corporate leaders? They have to be held to account. These amendments would help to address that, making sure that we have greater fairness between the small guy and the big guy, bringing us into line with the United States of America, where the wolf of Wall Street is being prosecuted, while ensuring that we keep up corporate standards, which sadly in some instances have slipped quite shamefully. It is only right and appropriate that we make sure that fraud and money laundering are dealt with every bit as strenuously and firmly as bribery and tax evasion.
These are hard times. People are making sacrifices, and it is about time that those who are abusing their powers in the corporate boardroom were held to account. We need to have the legislative framework.