In conclusion [Laughter.] Financial sanctions are an important diplomatic and strategic power. Individuals or companies breaking financial sanctions are a serious threat to the national interest and must be stopped. We cannot allow the civil penalties introduced under the Bill to be perceived as a mere slap on the wrist, and a reasonable risk to take for those who would do business with people they should not. By accepting our amendments, the Minister could prevent that from happening.
May I start by wishing the hon. Member for West Ham happy birthday for tomorrow? I hope we will not be sitting down to do this the day after her birthday, so I hope she enjoys her day without having to worry about getting up for Committee the next day, although she will obviously continue to represent her constituents in the excellent way that she does.
The enforcement of financial sanctions is vital to our foreign policy and national security, but it is also important to note that the size of a breach and the culpability of those involved in a breach will vary from case to case. It is therefore important to ensure that the enforcement of financial sanctions is both appropriately targeted and proportionate.
I will respond to some of the points made by the hon. Lady. I welcome her support for these measures. I reassure her that the new Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation, or OFSI, and the increased resource behind sanctions enforcement will ensure that financial sanctions make the fullest possible contribution to the UK’s foreign policy and national security goals, as well as helping to maintain the integrity of and confidence in the UK financial services sector.
I would also like to reassure her that OFSI will not seek to use monetary penalties as an alternative to a criminal prosecution. Where a serious breach of the kind described by the hon. Lady is identified by OFSI, the full range of potential enforcement mechanisms will be considered. Although the monetary penalties set out in the Bill will provide a valuable contribution, prosecution and asset seizure under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 will also be available.
I note that the Crown court will, on conviction, be able to impose an unlimited fine. We intend to consult shortly on where and when to use monetary penalties. The proposed maximum limits of £1 million or 50% of the value of the breach are based on evidence about the value of breaches reported to the Treasury over the past two years. We believe that those levels are both proportionate and adequate to remove profits made from breaches of financial sanctions and provide a sufficient deterrent.
The hon. Lady will also be aware that the clause already obliges the Treasury to keep the maximum limits under review, and it includes a power to vary that figure by regulations. Clearly, if it turns out that the provisions are not appropriate, based on the evidence we have today, we can always vary that figure. Finally, I would like to reassure the hon. Lady that if evidence shows that the limits should be set at a higher level we can, and we will, change them.
In the context of the civil sanction regime, it is right that the legislation should provide clear and proportionate limits on the amount of the financial penalty. We believe that, based on the evidence, £1 million or 50% of the estimated value of the funds is an appropriate limit and, accordingly, I urge the hon. Lady to withdraw her amendment.