Clause 328 - Authorised disclosures

Part of Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 24 January 2002.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 4:00, 24 January 2002

I listened carefully to the Minister. I am glad that he accepted the point, but I am not entirely reassured that the system will get much better as a result of the vast number of authorised disclosures that he hopes will take place. If the Government's proposal is to work and disclosures are made before transactions take place, it is essential that the response is very quick. It is in NCIS's interest that that should be the case. The sort of transaction that will be of particular concern to it is the one in which a solicitor says that his client wishes to transfer £2 million to a bank in a country that has a reputation for being a haven for tainted money.

That is an example of a transaction that escapes out of the jurisdiction and cannot be recovered. Obviously, the problem does not arise with the same force where a disclosure can be made subsequently. However, solicitors have a peculiar problem. Some of the stories that I was told had a humorous side, but there is a serious side, in that professional reputations are on the line, with a client who is metaphorically beating on the door and asking why his transaction is not going ahead. The solicitor is waiting to hear from NCIS whether he should say that he is not going ahead with the transaction without giving an explanation, or whether he should go ahead with it so that NCIS can follow it. The solicitor should not be left in limbo.

I hope that as a result of our discussions the Minister will take the opportunity to tell NCIS that the issue has caused concern. A delegation raised it with me, not just an individual solicitor. I therefore assume that unless it had been causing concern in the profession, it would have been dismissed as an isolated incident. I did not get that impression, although I may be mistaken, which is always possible. However, I got a clear impression that the profession at an official level regarded it as a potentially serious problem that had manifested itself on several occasions. I hope that NCIS and the Government can provide some reassurance that there will be rapid responses when disclosures are made.