Clause 281 - Other exemptions

Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:45 pm on 18 December 2001.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 6:45, 18 December 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 399, in

page 162, line 22, leave out subsections (1), (2) and (3).

Who are the categories of individuals in respect of whom it is envisaged that the Secretary of State or the Scottish Ministers may say that recovery should not take place? The measure is clearly in the Bill for a purpose. Surely, on the whole, justice is not about administrative convenience. Who are the categories of individuals from whom it is thought that the Secretary of State may designate that no recovery should occur?

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

The civil recovery scheme has been constructed on the basis that, in general, there should be no exemptions from civil recovery proceedings, other than those set out under clause 306. In many cases, when a person holds recoverable property, it will not be appropriate to bring civil

recovery proceedings. However, instead of trying to set out a comprehensive list of those cases, which would be impossible, the intention is to rely on the enforcement authority's discretion about against whom it brings proceedings.

Both the director and Scottish Ministers are public bodies for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998. They must therefore act proportionately in deciding which cases to bring. In addition, the director is under a duty—as we have discussed earlier—to act efficiently and effectively. There is, however, a small category of cases in which it is felt that there is compelling evidence for an exemption from civil recovery proceedings. That clause sets out those exemptions. We arrived at such exemptions after consultation with other Departments and relevant bodies.

One of the main exemptions is with regard to the Financial Services Authority as it is possible that it will hold recoverable property after it has, for example, levied a fine on a company engaged in market abuse. As one of the statutory objectives of the FSA is to reduce financial crime, it would be counter-productive to bring proceedings against that body. Although the consultation was extensive, it is possible that new circumstances may arise in future when there is a compelling case for an exemption and when relying on the enforcement authority's discretion is not sufficient. That is why we have included the order-making power. It will be subject to affirmative procedure if it is used, and I hope that that reassures the hon. Member for Beaconsfield. I hope that I have reassured him that that power should be held in reserve.

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

The Minister understands my slight concern. It is often administratively convenient for Departments to interfere with the ordinary course of justice. We are setting up a judicial process, and we have suddenly discovered exemptions in the clause that might be simply for administrative convenience. The reassurance on affirmative resolution is helpful. I am not sure that I wholly agree that the FSA should hold money that proceeds from unlawful conduct. As a philosophical issue, I do not understand why it should not hand that over, although it might be argued that that would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The Minister has provided an explanation, and I did not previously feel that I had one. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 281 ordered to stand part of the Bill.