Annual reporting: Adequacy of resources

Part of Criminal Finances Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 22nd November 2016.

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Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 11:00 am, 22nd November 2016

In my response to the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton on new clauses 2 and 5, I explained what we are doing to assess the capacity and capability of investigator resource. The new tools in the Bill are a key part of strengthening our response to economic crime. The Government continue to invest in law enforcement agencies through the asset recovery incentivisation scheme, which returns recovered assets back to the frontline. A top-slice of £5 million has been set aside every year until the end of this Parliament to fund key national asset recovery capabilities, and I can announce today that we are going further. We made a manifesto commitment to return a greater percentage of recovered assets to policing, and we are implementing that commitment by investing in policing the whole Home Office share of amounts above a certain baseline collected by the multi-agency regional asset recovery teams. That will give the agencies greater financial resources, if performance continues to increase—100% of the Home Office share, rather than the 50% that they currently get. There we are: an announcement in a Bill Committee—a new way of venturing forward.

Let us be honest: I say to the hon. Member for Bootle that in Government, we never have enough resources across all our priorities, because different priorities are preyed on by events such as flooding in the west of England, or issues for the Home Office such as a surge in terrorism. I therefore question the use of the word “adequacy” in the new clause. We can scrutinise accounts or budgets, but asking a police officer whether he feels he has enough is like asking, “How long is a piece of string?” Of course we never have enough for crime fighting across the country. If I had millions of pounds, I could find things to spend that money on immediately, and so could every Member in this Committee Room.

I am concerned about whether it would be right and fair to publish a report to Parliament, as the new clause demands. The agencies that use their powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act already report on their resources and results through the departmental annual accounts, which are subject to scrutiny from the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee. The use of criminal justice tools and powers is also subject to scrutiny by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and, in the case of terrorism legislation, by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. The criminal finances board also closely monitors performance and resourcing issues. I hope that the hon. Members for Ealing Central and Acton, and for Bootle, can see that there is already significant scrutiny of resourcing. I invite the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton to withdraw the motion.