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Session 1999-2000
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Delegated Legislation Committee Debates

Draft Criminal Justice Act 1993 (Extension of Offences) Order 2000

First Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation

Monday 26 June 2000

[Mr. Bill Olner in the Chair]

Draft Criminal Justice Act 1993 (Extension of Group A Offences) Order 2000

4.30 pm

The Chairman: Order. Hon. Members may remove their jackets, if they so wish.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Charles Clarke): I beg to move,

    That the Committee has considered the draft Criminal Justice Act 1993 (Extension of Group A Offences) Order 2000.

I appreciate serving under your chairmanship, Mr. Olner, and I welcome the Committee to discuss this important Act. The amendment is designed to strengthen protection against counterfeiting of all currencies. As I am sure that the Committee will acknowledge, counterfeiting is a serious criminal offence, which can, in the most extreme circumstances, threaten the stability of the state.

Modern developments in technology mean that such crimes increasingly take place across national borders. International crime demands an international response from law enforcement agencies.

The United Kingdom counterfeiting legislation is already adequate to deal with counterfeiting offences in almost every case. However, the amendment will enable us to prosecute counterfeiting offences that have a territorial link with the UK, even when they do not take place entirely within England and Wales. It will enable us to comply with the requirements of the European Union framework decision on counterfeiting currency, which was adopted in May this year under articles 31(c) and 34 2(b) of the treaty on European Union, the former article K, which deals with common action on judicial co-operation in criminal matters—title VI, which is also known as the third pillar on co-operation. I make that clear for any anti-euro or Euro-fanatics on the Opposition Benches.

Taking prompt action now shows that the UK is determined to combat counterfeiting in co-operation with our European partners. We believe in working with our European partners on this and other law enforcement matters. For those reasons, I commend the order to the Committee.

4.31 pm

Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury): I join the Minister in welcoming you to the Chair, Mr. Olner. The order is an important matter, although I hope that it will not prove extraordinarily controversial. The Government are using the enabling power granted to them in the Criminal Justice Act 1993, which had its origins in a Bill introduced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke). I cannot help reflecting on the slight irony that, in the Standing Committee that considered that Bill, none other than the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien), who is now a Home Office Minister, expressed grave disquiet about the enabling power being granted to Ministers. On the power to move new offences into group A under the 1993 legislation, he said:

    The use of an affirmative order of the House is not a sufficient control over the great extra power that would be given to the Home Secretary—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 25 May 1993; c. 25.]

Having looked back at debates on the 1993 Act, I understand the purpose of the order before us. For the benefit of the whole Committee, will the Minister describe the sort of case for which he believes the new powers are necessary? When Home Office and Treasury Ministers introduced the original powers in 1993, they explained that there was a need for the extra-territoriality to be applied to offences, because the criminal law could bite on only the last action in a sequence of criminal events taking place in different countries.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe gave the example of a criminal in London placing an advertisement in The Times inviting people to invest in a non-existent factory in Japan by paying money into a Tokyo bank account. He argued that the victim would respond to the advertisement and then instruct his bank to transfer the money to Tokyo. He said that when the criminal retrieved the money from the Tokyo account he would have no need to escape the long arm of the law because, prior to the 1993 Act, he would have committed no offence under English law because the last element of the crime, that of obtaining the proceeds in Tokyo, was not within the jurisdiction of the English courts.

I should be grateful if the Minister would flesh out his argument about the need for this extension to the 1993 Act by saying whether new developments in the crime of counterfeiting make it appropriate to amend the law now, and that these changes were not thought by the then ministerial team to be essential to combat international organised crime. The alternative is that the Government are amending our law to bring it into line with what has been enacted in Europe, even though we see no immediate need for such legislative powers in the United Kingdom.

I shall eschew the temptation to be drawn into arguments about the currencies or putative currencies that might be counterfeited. I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone should want to counterfeit the euro; it is a pretty sure-fire way to lose money at the moment.

The Opposition accept that in a world where criminals can operate across national boundaries and continents, it is important, particularly when dealing with financial crime, that our law makes it possible for the police and courts to pin down international criminals and bring them to justice, in whichever jurisdiction they commit their crimes. The Opposition therefore support the order.

4.36 pm

Mr. Charles Clarke: I am grateful for that clarification. I said that the development of technology is an important motivation for making the order. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) mentioned the example given by the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe. Another is that someone in this country could create part of the design for a counterfeit note and e-mail it to Spain for the process to be completed. The development of new technology makes that possible in ways that were not previously available.

I am grateful for the way in which the hon. Gentleman put the Conservative party's position. The purpose is to ensure that we have the tightest possible regime against counterfeiting, because new technology and other developments make it possible to counterfeit in a variety of ways. The more closely that we co-operate with our European Union colleagues—it is nothing to do with the euro, as the hon. Gentleman acknowledged—the more effectively we shall be able to fight criminal organisations.

The hon. Gentleman will know that money laundering is a key element in big organised crime, such as trafficking in people or drugs, paedophilia and so forth. Most money laundering is not done in currency; it is a potential development for organised crime and we want to ensure that we have in place the mechanisms to deal with it.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft Criminal Justice Act 1993 (Extension of Group A Offences) Order 2000.

Committee rose at twenty-one minutes to Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Olner, Mr. Bill (Chairman)
Atkins, Charlotte
Ballard, Jackie
Borrow, Mr.
Butler, Mrs.
Clarke, Mr. Charles
Golding, Mrs.
Gray, Mr.
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Mr. Patrick
Lidington, Mr.
Luff, Mr.
Stinchcombe, Mr.
Thomas, Mr. Gareth R.
Wilshire, Mr.


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Prepared 26 June 2000