Disclosure orders: England and Wales and Northern Ireland

Criminal Finances Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 17th November 2016.

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

With this it will be convenient to discuss clause 8 stand part.

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

The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, which was introduced by the last Labour Government, provides a suite of powers to be used in connection with a range of investigations, including confiscation and civil recovery. A disclosure order is one of those powerful tools and requires any person having relevant information to answer questions, provide information or produce any document that is relevant to the investigation. Disclosure orders are flexible, practical and efficient. Their use avoids the need to seek multiple orders over the course of an investigation. The changes we are making extend the power to seek disclosure orders in money-laundering investigations that were previously explicitly excluded. This exclusion was primarily because of concerns over self-incrimination. However, that protection is maintained in the new provisions, ensuring that individuals who are subject to a money laundering investigation cannot be compelled to provide information that might incriminate them.

Clause 7 also changes the definition of who can apply for a disclosure order, removing the need for a prosecuting body to be responsible for its application. Significantly, this change does not lead to a reduction in the level of seniority of the person who can apply. An appropriate officer can apply for a disclosure order only on the approval of the senior appropriate officer, ensuring that the application process is safeguarded. These changes will be reflected in the statutory code of practice on the investigation tools in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Clause 8 replicates in Scotland the provisions contained in clause 7 for England and Wales that enable an application for disclosure orders in money laundering investigations, providing an essential UK-wide response.

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

I am convinced by the Minister’s persuasive words that red tape will be removed. We can apply for disclosure orders and yet maintain vital safeguards, so we will support clause 7 and clause 8, which extends the power to Scotland.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 7 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9