Clause 301 - The minimum amount

Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 10 January 2002.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 3:30, 10 January 2002

I beg to move amendment No. 462, in page 174, line 3, leave out from 'is' to end of line 5 and insert '£10,000'.

This is a probing amendment to give the Minister an opportunity to put on the record what he has already hinted at, which is where the minimum monetary point at which money will be recovered will kick in. I understand that it will be £10,000, and that could be expressed in the Bill. An argument against that is that, with the passage of time, there may be occasions when, without wishing to return to primary legislation, it ought to be possible to alter such a figure to reflect the changing value of money. I should be grateful if he would explain the position and say what the level will be when the Bill is enacted.

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

I am grateful for that clarification. I thought that we were going to go down a well-trodden path, which would bore the Committee. The clause will require the Secretary of State to set a minimum amount to apply in the relevant clauses of chapter 3. The order must be made by the Secretary of State after consultation with Scottish Ministers and will be subject to the negative resolution procedure. It is better to establish a minimum amount in that way, rather than in the way proposed in the amendment. If the minimum amount were to need adjustment, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, that could be done by secondary rather than primary legislation. We have not made a final decision on the level of the threshold, but we anticipate that it will be at a level of £10,000, which of course is the threshold for cash under the borders scheme that currently applies in the provisions of the Drug Trafficking Act 1994. With that caveat, I hope that the hon. Gentleman is satisfied, and that he will withdraw the amendment.

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

That goes a long way towards satisfying me. I confess that I would be happier if the Minister were able to tell us, before the Bill leaves the House of Commons, exactly what the amount will be. A figure of £10,000 makes a lot of sense because it is in the existing legislation. It also makes a lot of sense because, at current values, it is the kind of minimum level that we should be concerned about, and it reflects

the level of money that people are likely to have on their person or in their houses.

Picking up on what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok said at various stages—I am sorry that he is not here at the moment—if one has £25,000 in cash in a box in the house, it looks a bit odd. Certainly, anecdotal evidence suggests that some people carry several thousand pounds on them. If one were to reach the point at which the police were feeling the need to seize sums of £4,000 or £5,000 found on an individual at any one time, they might find that they had a pretty big task on their hands. That was the reason for my concern. If the Minister could address that before the Bill leaves the Committee, it would be helpful.

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

I do not disagree with a word that the hon. Gentleman has said. I shall try to firm up what I have said as soon as possible.

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

I am happy with that. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

I have learned from experience that it is incredibly difficult to raise a question about the future of sterling without its appearing to be either out of order or in some way part of a hidden agenda. I genuinely seek information from the Minister, as I have a curious turn of mind. Whether one should dispense with sterling and introduce a different currency is not what I want to talk about.

Given legislation of this sort, in which reference is made to sterling, would the Government of the day have to come back and amend all legislation with such references if the currency of this country were to change? Alternatively, does the Bill state somewhere that, for sterling, one should read whatever currency is in use in the United Kingdom at the time. That must apply to hundreds if not thousands of statutes in the United Kingdom. Has anyone given thought to how we would handle that problem?

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

All that I can say to the hon. Gentleman is that the Bill does not contain a clause stating that if the currency is changed certain provisions will not apply. I assume that an all-embracing clause would be included in legislation to change the currency, but I am not capable of answering his question.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

I am grateful for such honesty, which appeals to me. Will the Minister undertake to find out and give us an answer?

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

That is not within my ministerial responsibility. As a Member of Parliament, the hon. Gentleman can table questions to Treasury Ministers if he chooses to do so. Perhaps that is how he should pursue his query.

Photo of Mr John McWilliam Mr John McWilliam Labour, Blaydon

Order. The hon. Gentleman's question is beyond the title of the Bill, and should be addressed elsewhere.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 301 ordered to stand part of the Bill..