Disclosure orders

Criminal Finances Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 17th November 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

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

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

We now move on to part 2 of the Bill, relating to terrorist property. In our discussions so far we have focused on clauses that are about ensuring we take the profit out of serious and organised criminality. Terrorism finance is different. Individuals who raise and move funds for the purpose of terrorism are not concerned with profit, but with causing the loss of life. It is essential that the tools available for terrorist finance investigations and the powers available to seize terrorist cash and property are as comprehensive as those available for dealing with other financial crime or, in some cases, more robust. Part 2 of the Bill is included for that purpose.

The relevant clauses therefore largely reflect the existing provisions relating to financial crime, but have been adapted as needed to respond to what is a different type of threat. As I explained earlier, disclosure orders are available for confiscations, civil recovery and exploitation proceeds investigations. Clause 29 and schedule 2, which it introduces, are very similar to clauses 7 and 8, and extend disclosure orders to money laundering investigations, but do so for terrorist finance investigations. The clause will make disclosure orders available for terrorist finance investigations, which will give law enforcement agencies the means to obtain information that is significant for investigating suspected terrorist finance offences or for identifying terrorist property.

The clause makes it possible for the police to apply to the court for an order to compel an individual to answer questions, to provide information or to produce documentation that is assessed to be relevant to progressing a terrorist finance investigation. It will be an offence to fail to comply with such an order without reasonable excuse, and to make a false or misleading statement in response to such an order. Either offence is punishable by a possible term of imprisonment of up to two years.

This is a robust measure, which is appropriate when we consider the type of threat with which we are concerned. However, it will operate with a number of safeguards: the application for an order must be made by a senior police officer, at least a superintendent, or authorised by such an officer; and the court must be satisfied that the information sought will be of substantial value, and that it is in the public interest for it to be provided, before making an order.

The action plan for money laundering and counter-terrorism finance, to which I have referred on numerous occasions, identified the need for a more robust law enforcement response to tackle money laundering and terrorist finance in all its forms. The measure is part of that response.

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

The Minister is absolutely correct that the Government’s action plan of April 2016 identified this as a crucial area in need of examination. Terrorism is the threat of our modern age, along with climate change, so we go along with the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 29 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 2