Disclosure orders

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

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Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 2:45 pm, 17th November 2016

I beg to move amendment 16 in schedule 2, page 109, line 9, leave out “designated” and insert “counter-terrorism”.

This amendment, and amendments 18, 20, 21 to 25, 27 to 49 and 54, are consequential on amendment 26.

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments 18, 20 to 49 and 54.

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

We come to a large number of Government amendments, but I am pleased to inform the Committee that they are all connected to the same issue. Legislation must keep pace with changes to the police workforce. Civilian financial investigators accredited to the National Crime Agency under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 can already exercise many of the equivalent investigatory powers available under the legislation for a variety of investigations into money laundering and other serious crime.

Clause 34 of the Bill, which we will reach consideration of in due course, will allow civilian members of police staff, who will be referred to as counter-terrorism financial investigators, likewise to exercise certain investigatory powers in connection with terrorist investigations. The powers include applying to a court for a production order in relation to terrorist property, a financial information order or an account monitoring order. Clause 34 will also amend schedule 1 to the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 to allow financial investigators to seize terrorist cash. Clause 32 will enable them to seize certain personal movable items.

At a time when counter-terrorism policing has been given additional investment in recognition of the threat levels facing the UK and the vital function it provides, I hope the Committee will agree that it is entirely sensible to provide greater flexibility in legislation for how the police may use their workforce. That does not mean that the exercise of those powers by a wider pool of people should be without safeguards. After further discussion with the police and the National Crime Agency, we have identified that a discrete accreditation process is appropriate for counter-terrorism financial investigators, rather than the training system for financial investigators set out in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The amendments will put in place bespoke arrangements for training, accrediting and monitoring counter-terrorism financial investigators. The Metropolitan Police Service will be responsible for training and will be required to provide a system of accreditation for civilians who wish to become counter-terrorist financial investigators. That will include monitoring performance and withdrawing accreditation from any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any condition of their accreditation.

Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Opposition Whip (Commons) 3:00 pm, 17th November 2016

The Minister is explaining the need for the amendments. Will he explain exactly what difference the proposed changes will make to the accreditation? How will it compare with what it would otherwise have been?

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

As I said earlier, terrorist financing often happens much more in real time. It is not about someone banking their asset to enrich themselves; it is about funding an operation. There will therefore be different requirements for these financial investigators. They will almost be chasing the money as they go, often to stop an operation that is about to happen—someone may be about to book a plane ticket and we may need that stopped—so they will need a different skill set from a normal accredited financial investigator. That is one fundamental difference; another relates to the different approaches that the Bill takes to terrorist financing and to criminal financing. There is a difference between enriching oneself and funding an act of terror.

Amendment 16 agreed to.

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

I beg to move amendment 17, page 114, line 30, leave out “6” and insert “12”.

This amendment increases the maximum period of imprisonment from 6 to 12 months (in line with other provisions in the Bill) in the case of an offence in Scotland of making false etc. statements in response to a disclosure order under the new provisions inserted into Schedule 5A to the Terrorism Act 2000.

The amendment will increase the maximum sentence for making false or misleading statements in response to a disclosure order to 12 months’ imprisonment, following a summary conviction in Scotland. The maximum penalty for the offence following a conviction on indictment will remain two years’ imprisonment. In our ongoing discussions with the Scottish Government, I have been advised that the summary courts in Scotland have general powers to impose sentences of up to 12 months and that this is therefore the correct approach for offences that can be tried summarily or on indictment. It will help to ensure the best use of the sheriff courts in Scotland.

Photo of Richard Arkless Richard Arkless Scottish National Party, Dumfries and Galloway

That is a fair assessment of the position in Scots law. A sentence of 12 months is more consistent with the rest of the Bill and with the summary powers of sheriff courts in Scotland. Also, we have a presumption against lower sentences in Scotland and I would not like a lower sentence of less than six months to be caught by that presumption unintentionally. We support the amendment.

Amendment 17 agreed to.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 30