Sharing of information within the regulated sector

Criminal Finances Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 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 31 stand part.

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

Collaboration between law enforcement and the private sector is incredibly important for countering terrorism, as it is for combating serious and organised crime. The importance of such close collaboration will be a key theme that features prominently in the forthcoming revised Contest counter-terrorism strategy.

Clauses 30 and 31 mirror the provisions in clauses 10 and 11, but for terrorist finance investigations.

As I have outlined to the Committee in relation to part 1 of the Bill, the Government are committed to improving public-private partnerships. We must support the regulated sector to come together to share expertise and information to help it protect legitimate businesses from being exploited for criminal or terrorist intent. In some cases, the detailed picture held by the regulated sector might be key to understanding particular threats. Closer working with the regulated sector can only enhance our understanding of terrorism and provide opportunities to protect against it or disrupt it. Clearly, the financial sector in particular can play a vital part in terrorist finance investigations and tracking terrorist property.

Clause 30, like clause 10 on money laundering, will enable firm-to-firm information sharing through a legal gateway, which will provide immunity from civil liability, encouraging the reporting sector to share information to detect and prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. The joint money laundering intelligence taskforce has demonstrated that there is potential for information sharing in relation to terrorist financing to support effective law enforcement action and disrupt threats to our national security. The clause is an important measure that enables us to take forward that agenda. Although obligations to protect customers’ personal data remain important and must be respected, where it is possible to overcome barriers to the effective sharing of information to progress an investigation, the Government will do what we can to allow it.

Clause 31 will allow the National Crime Agency or the police, following receipt of a report under section 21(2)(a) of the Terrorism Act 2000, to request further information from any member of the regulated sector, irrespective of whether that entity raised the original suspicious activity report. It will also allow the National Crime Agency to seek further information on behalf of a foreign authority. Just as in clause 11, in the event that a member of the regulated sector does not comply with a request for more information, the provision will also allow the NCA or the police to obtain a court order to ensure that it is provided.

The two clauses will allow better information flows within the regulated sector and between the regulated sector and law enforcement agencies, generating better intelligence for law enforcement agencies and helping firms better protect themselves. I commend the clauses to the Committee.

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

Clauses 30 and 31 revisit the information sharing themes that we have been discussing all day. We thoroughly commend them. They build on another good piece of Labour legislation, the Terrorism Act 2000. Unfortunately, terrorists have become ever more ingenious in the evil schemes that they dream up in the 16 years since, which is why the clauses are necessary.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 30 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 31