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Clause 115 - Variation of order

Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 6th December 2001.

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Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:00 pm, 6th December 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 209, in page 70, line 33, after 'founded', insert—

'(a) it must find the amount which should have been the amount required to be paid (taking the circumstances prevailing when the amount was found for the purposes of the order), and

(b) '.

Photo of Mr John McWilliam Mr John McWilliam Labour, Blaydon

With this it will be convenient to take clause stand part.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

This drafting amendment is designed to ensure that when the court varies an order under clause 115, it should determine what should have been the appropriate amount when the order was made originally. It brings the clause into line with clause 30 under part 2 of the Bill.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

That may be the purpose of the amendment but as it stands, it risks descending into farcical gobbledegook. It splits or adds to the subsection. It removes the words

''it may vary the order by substituting for the amount required to be paid such amount as it thinks is just.

and introduces a twofold test. I assume that paragraph (b) is the immediate preface to the words ''it may vary''. Is the amendment really necessary? Perhaps it is, but I am beginning to wonder whether it just reflects the fact that the English drafting was complex.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman touched on the point a while ago. Under a mandatory scheme, the language needs to be more prescriptive, and he should not be surprised by that fact.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

If the Under-Secretary thinks about the way in which amendment No. 209 is drafted, he will see that Sir Humphrey Appleby would have been proud of such drafting. The proposed new subsection states:

''it must find the amount which should have been the amount required to be paid (taking the circumstances prevailing when the amount was found for the purposes of the order''.

''Find'' and ''found'' are in the same sentence, which is extremely inelegant. I put it no more critically than that. I can only echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

I am interested in what my hon. Friend is saying. I am Chairman of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments; that Committee regularly examines the way in which measures are drafted and may report them as defective. The drafting in this case is confusing despite a general drafting policy to ensure that we have plain English. The provision under discussion is not plain and it borders on not being English. It behoves the Minister to see if he cannot at least break the sentence up.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has experience as Chairman of a very important Committee. I served for a relatively short period, two Parliaments ago, on one of the Joint Committees with another place which dealt with the question of resolving conflicts in legislation between the two Houses. The work of that Committee overlaps to some extent with that of the Committee chaired by my hon. Friend. The Minister is talking about inserting some words after the word ''founded''. If the amendment is incorporated into the legislation, we will have three different tenses of the same verb all at once—''founded'', then ''find'', then ''found''.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

We must not prolong proceedings, but is my hon. Friend familiar with fox hunting terminology? We have ''find'' and ''found'', which is the sort of language that might be used at the Master of Fox Hounds Association dinner.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I am indeed familiar with that. I am sure that, whether they are old or new Labour, many Government Members would not want that.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

If I go too far down that route, the Chairman will find that I have ''gone away''.

Photo of Mr John McWilliam Mr John McWilliam Labour, Blaydon

Order. The Chairman is about to find that—as far as I am aware—fox hunting has not been made illegal yet, so it would not arise under any part of this Bill. However, I should not anticipate too much.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Henley, the acknowledged wordsmith of this Committee, will be able to give the Committee the benefit of his understanding of a single sentence that contains ''founded'', ''find'' and ''found''. On a serious point, if the amendment does not really change the meaning, the original drafting at least has the merit of being clear. However, the change that the Government propose to introduce in clause 115 can only confuse. I hope that my hon. Friend can shed some light on the matter.

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Conservative, Henley

I rise to speak with great trepidation. I think that my commission was to find a sentence in which the word ''found'' was used in a not particularly well-founded way. I hope that I have just done it.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

If all I had to look forward to was a conversation about legal issues in the drawing room when I got home, I would be as content to go around the streets and houses as Conservative Members are.

The wording of the amendment is required. It may appear contorted, but lots of things in this place appear contorted to me. However, in relation to a returning absconder, the court needs to go back and consider what the amount should have been at the time before moving on to decide what is just in hearing his case for a variation. It is not possible simply to remove the words. That is the process that the court must go through to treat that returning absconder in a proper fashion.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 210, in page 70, line 34, leave out 'thinks' and insert 'believes'.—[Mr. Bob Ainsworth.]

Clause 115, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 116 ordered to stand part of the Bill.