Further information notices and orders

Criminal Finances Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:45 pm on 17th November 2016.

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Amendment made: 10, in clause 11, page 38, leave out line 2.—(Mr Wallace.)

This amendment removes a reference to the Scottish Ministers from the list of persons who may make an application to the sheriff for a further information order under new section 339ZJ of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

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

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

Clause 11 creates a new power to issue further information orders. In the anti-money laundering action plan the Government set out our commitment to improving the financial intelligence that would be available to both the law enforcement agencies and the private sector. Improving our financial intelligence is essential to allow the identification of the major risks from money laundering, and to identify where resources from both the public and private sectors should be focused.

The action plan also contained a commitment to do more to tackle money laundering internationally, through sharing information and intelligence, and working through international bodies such as the Financial Action Task Force. The suspicious activity reports regime, run by the UK Financial Intelligence Unit at the National Crime Agency, is central to the UK anti-money laundering regime, and to the development of financial intelligence. The regime took more than 380,000 reports in 2014-15 from the regulated sector, including banks, lawyers and accountants.

Clause 11 will allow the UK Financial Intelligence Unit, following the receipt of a suspicious activity report, to request further information from any member of the regulated sector, irrespective of whether that entity raised the SAR.

There are a number of reasons why the UKFIU needs such a power. First, there are occasions where the SAR does not contain all the information necessary to allow the UKFIU to determine whether action, including an investigation, should be undertaken. That is particularly important when determining how scarce resources should be allocated. The intention is to drive up the quality of SARs and to enable improved intelligence analysis for the better identification of risk and threat.

Secondly, the UKFIU can use the power when it needs information in order to develop effective intelligence to identify the major threats from money launderers. That intelligence will be used to inform the work of law enforcement agencies and can be shared with the private sector to help them put in place effective counter-measures to the threats they face from money laundering.

Thirdly, it will allow the UKFIU to seek further information on behalf of a foreign financial intelligence unit to support investigations or intelligence development in that country. That will be subject to the appropriate safeguards, and the UK will benefit from the ability to request equivalent information from foreign financial intelligence units. The provision will also ensure that the UK is compliant with the relevant Financial Action Task Force recommendations ahead of the its evaluation of the UK anti-money laundering regime in 2018.

The clause will allow the National Crime Agency to direct that further information is provided and, if it is not provided, to apply to a court for a further information order to require the person to provide the information requested. We are keen to support appropriate information sharing between financial intelligence units, and we know that FATF and its members want to do more in that area. Incidents such as the attacks in Paris, where financial intelligence was needed to support the investigation, illustrate the need to be able to share such information. However, I would like to be clear that there should be safeguards in place for international information sharing. As with a request driven by the NCA itself, a court order will be required where a regulated entity does not provide information if requested to do so by the NCA. That in itself is an important safeguard. I am, as ever, open to discussing this issue with hon. Members if it is felt that additional safeguards may be appropriate.

On a separate point, I know that the issue of privileged information is of concern to Members, and I want to be clear that the UK Financial Intelligence Unit will not be able to request the provision of privileged information as part of this measure. This is an important safeguard for those who hold such information, and we do not believe that it should be requested under this power.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Crime and Prevention)

It appears that the clause enacts some of the recommendations of the action plan for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist finance that the Government issued in April 2016. We will support the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 11, as amended, accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Andrew Griffiths.)

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.