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Clause 94 - Making of order

Part of Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 8:55 am on 6th December 2001.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 8:55 am, 6th December 2001

I am grateful to the Minister for his clear exposition of the numerous amendments, and for his prefacing remarks. He is right to say that the bulk of the amendments mirror issues that we have discussed earlier. I certainly do not wish to exploit that situation, and we will not go over old ground the principles of which we have already debated. None the less, we need to examine the principles on which this part of the Bill is about to be rewritten. I am mindful of what the Minister said, but I am not as completely comfortable with what we are doing as he plainly is. I shall take a moment or two of the Committee's time to explain why.

The Minister knows that I was once the Opposition spokesman on Scotland. During that time, I tried to ensure that devolution worked. Although my party had objections in principle to the concept, once devolution had come about, it was obvious that it had to function well. The mechanism through which we are operating is a device that was set up under the Scotland Act 1998 to ensure that devolution could function properly. I do not have a problem with the concept that the Scottish Parliament can say that it is more sensible for the United Kingdom Parliament to legislate on a certain devolved area because the legislation concerns matters that are part devolved and part reserved. I agree with the Minister that it would be ludicrous for the Committee to be fettered to the precise text of the Bill, rather than being able to examine it and make sensible amendments.

We are about to carry out a rewriting of the Bill, albeit in small ways because in many cases the critical change is replacing the word ''may'' with the word ''must''. Nevertheless, that will alter radically the powers of the judiciary in relation to the way in which the Bill, and thus the law, may be applied in Scotland. It is a moot point what difference that will make in practice, because, as was said earlier, it was suggested that the existing discretionary powers in Scotland that mirror the Scottish model have never interfered with the successful confiscation of assets. The Minister will remember that that was an argument that I put forward to support rewriting the parts of the Bill that apply to England and Wales, because the discretionary power was innocuous, but might have allowed the prevention of injustice in some circumstances.