Clause 256 - Restriction on proceedings and remedies

Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 18 December 2001.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 4:45, 18 December 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 357, in page 149, line 32, after 'receiver', insert

'and any other affected party'.

The clause imposes

''Restriction on proceedings and remedies''.

Subsection (1) states:

''While an interim receiving order has effect—

(a) the court may stay any action, execution or other legal process in respect of the property to which the order applies,

(b) no distress may be levied against the property''.

Subsection (2) provides:

''If a court (whether the High Court or any other court) in which proceedings are pending in respect of any property is satisfied that an interim receiving order has been applied for or made...the court may either stay the proceedings or allow them to continue on any terms it thinks fit.''

Subsection (3) states:

''Before exercising any power conferred by subsection (2), the court must give the enforcement authority and (if appointed) the interim receiver an opportunity to be heard.''

I am in favour of giving the enforcement authority and the interim receiver the opportunity to be heard, but what about the other side? The amendment would allow ''any other affected party''—the Minister will note the consistency of my approach; I use the word ''affected'' rather than ''interested'' party—to make representations to the court. Is it intended that, under the Bill, only the interim receiver or the enforcement authority may make representations? I find that strange. In circumstances in which there are bound to be other affected parties, they, too, should be entitled to make representations.

The amendment is minor and I do not believe that it would prejudice the outcome of the proceedings. The amendment does, at least, ensure fairness. If I have misunderstood the position and other affected parties are also able to make representations under a provision that is not spelt out in the clause, I should be happy to be reassured to that effect. Unless the Minister can reassure me about that, it seems to me that my amendment would be a valuable safeguard that would ensure that the court obeys the usual rules of hearing the other side.

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

Let us see the degree to which I can satisfy the hon. Gentleman. Subsection (2) provides that any court in which other proceedings are pending in respect of property subject to an interim receiving order may stay proceedings or impose its own terms on how those proceedings should continue. Before exercising that power, the court must give the enforcement authority and the interim receiver the right to be heard. As the hon. Gentleman said, the amendment would give any other party affected by the proceedings the right to be heard. The clause is intended to cover the situation where a civil recovery procedure and other proceedings are ongoing in respect of the same property. In such circumstances, the parties to the other proceedings will have had an automatic right to be heard, before the court exercises any power conferred under subsection (2) to stay the proceedings or to allow them to continue. We envisaged that those parties would include the respondent to civil recovery proceedings, as the respondent will be holding the property concerned. Those parties might also include holders of associated property, who may, for example, hold an interest in the property, subject to the proceedings.

In addition, clause 256(3) will give the enforcement authority and the interim receiver the right to be heard before the court takes its decision. The amendment would require the court to give any other party affected by either set of proceedings a right to be heard. It appears that the main people affected by either set of proceedings already have the right to be heard by the court, before it exercises any powers under clause 265(2). We are not sure, therefore, that the amendment is needed. However, the hon. Gentleman has raised a point that we will consider further, to see whether there are any affected parties who should have the opportunity to be heard by the court but who currently have no right to be heard. If, as a result of that process, we identify any gap, we will table an amendment on Report to cover it. With that assurance, I invite the hon. Gentleman to consider withdrawing his amendment.

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

Yes, I will. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 256 ordered to stand part of the Bill.