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6.15 pm

When we decided to make that change I consulted the Deputy First Minister, who is Minister for Justice in Scotland, and the Lord Advocate. The change was then discussed within the Scottish Executive, and they agreed that we should proceed along the lines suggested. It was on the basis of that agreement that we did so.

May I say to the Tories, particularly the English Tories—we do not have the privilege of having the single Scottish Tory with us today—that they should not be fooled, as they were in Committee, by the apparently reasonable blandishments offered by the SNP? The SNP may talk about respecting and understanding the spirit of the Scotland Act 1998, but that is no part of its agenda. The SNP's agenda is to break up Britain, and every action that its members take is to that end. If the hon. Member for Beaconsfield does not understand that, he is more naive than he looks.

Mr. Grieve: As I said to the Minister in Committee, my party stands for the Union, but it also stands for the proper constitutional working of the devolution

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settlement. That is central to our principles. That is why I expressed concern in Committee, notwithstanding the Sewel motion, which we fully understood, about substantially rewriting legislation without its having gone before the Scottish Parliament. I should add that that issue and the issue raised by amendment No. 229 are not identical, which is why I shall listen carefully to what the Minister has to say.

Mr. Foulkes: I am not responsible for bringing matters to the Scottish Parliament. My responsibility was to consult the Minister for Justice and the Lord Advocate, and I did so. On this occasion, they judged that because they knew the views of all parties in the Scottish Parliament, there was no need to consult it. At the time of the Sewel motion, effective unanimity had been expressed that we needed strong powers to deal with the drug barons. I think that their judgment was correct.

Mr. Michael Weir (Angus): The Minister will recall that I raised that point in the Scottish Affairs Committee, and he said:

to take the matter back to the Parliament. The point was specifically canvassed in the Scottish Affairs Committee. I asked not about the Executive, but the Parliament. I made that point several times. When did the Minister change his mind?

Mr. Foulkes: I have not changed my mind, and the hon. Gentleman does not make his point any more effectively by shouting—[Interruption.] I shall hear no comments about pots and kettles. I said that there may, in certain circumstances, be a political imperative to consult the Scottish Parliament, but it is up to Scottish Ministers to decide when that is the case. In this case, they decided that it was not necessary, and I respect their decision.

Mr. Salmond: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Foulkes: I shall deal next with new clause 6.

Mr. Salmond: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Foulkes: No. I have dealt with that point and we have many important matters to cover.

Mr. Salmond: Will the Minister give way?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): The Minister obviously will not give way.

Mr. Foulkes: It was fairly obvious, was it not, Madam Deputy Speaker? You are quite right.

New clause 6 would ensure that where the Bill interacts with other pieces of legislation, it is clear beyond doubt that United Kingdom legislation, including that passed by devolved legislatures, is included within the definition of the enactment. In case hon. Members are curious about why there is an exemption for clause 448(1), that is intended to ensure that additional public money is made available only where it has been specifically provided for by Westminster. I hope that everyone will agree with that.

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Finally, and I hope helpfully to the Liberal Democrats, I will deal with new clause 1. Its effect would be to require the Lord Advocate and the Scottish Ministers to publish separate annual reports and other items outlined by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, which I shall not list again. Hon. Members, particularly the hon. Gentleman, have contrasted the position in Scotland with that of the director of the Assets Recovery Agency. They have pointed out that the director is required by schedule 1 to publish both an annual plan and an annual report. I stress that the difference between the director and the Lord Advocate and Scottish Ministers is that the agency is a statutory body. It is therefore quite correct for the Bill to make detailed provisions on the director's duties and responsibilities. With regard to the Lord Advocate's responsibilities under the Bill for confiscation and cash seizure, I can assure the House that appropriate details of how he has exercised his functions will be set out in the Crown Office annual report, which is laid before the Scottish Parliament. Similarly, appropriate information on how Scottish Ministers have exercised their civil recovery and cash seizure functions will also be published and made available to the Scottish Parliament.

Mr. Carmichael: I welcome the news that that information will be published as part of the Crown Office annual report. However, does the Minister accept that that is produced only because the current Lord Advocate and some of his predecessors have chosen to do so, not because any such obligations are placed on him? If any future Lord Advocate decided not to produce such an annual report, Scotland would be left in a significantly weaker position than the rest of the country.

Mr. Foulkes: I do not accept that, because it is up to the Scottish Parliament to require the Lord Advocate and Ministers to produce reports as appropriate, and no doubt they will take that up. The hon. Gentleman has one or two friends in the Scottish Parliament, and he can raise it with them. I shall be helpful to the hon. Gentleman, and had he been a little less impatient he would have been even more excited about what I am about to say.

The Government attach considerable importance to the Bill and are determined to ensure that they work effectively to deprive criminals and others of the proceeds of their crime. That applies equally to Scotland. I can therefore assure hon. Members that, as with all new policy initiatives, the effectiveness of the new provisions will be kept under regular review by the Lord Advocate and by Scottish Ministers. If they consider that further changes or improvements are required, they will not hesitate to bring them forward. We consider that keeping responsibility for confiscation in Scotland with the Lord Advocate and making the Scottish Ministers responsible for civil recovery is the most effective arrangement for Scotland. However, if that should turn out not to be the case, of course consideration will be given to other options, including the setting up of a Scottish Assets Recovery Agency. I hope that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland will welcome that assurance.

The Government are determined to ensure that the Bill works effectively to deprive criminals and their associates of their ill-gotten gains. It will also recycle substantial

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amounts of the money recovered from the proceeds of crime to help the victims of crime. That is an important part of the Bill.

Mr. Carmichael: I am happy to welcome the Minister's assurances, but does he not accept that the difference between my proposal and his is that the Scottish Parliament, not the Scottish Executive, should be the ultimate arbiter of whether the system is working well?

Mr. Foulkes: Of course, the Scottish Executive is accountable to the Scottish Parliament. The hon. Gentleman has colleagues not only in the Scottish Parliament, but in the Scottish Executive. Indeed, he has a very close colleague there, and he should talk to him a bit more.

Given what I have said, I do not think it appropriate to tie Ministers' hands in the way that the amendment seeks to do. In particular, within two years may be too short a period in which to reach a proper assessment of the overall effectiveness of the Bill's arrangements. We do not know how many civil recovery cases there will be in Scotland, but Ministers will have the option of a Scottish agency if they think it appropriate.

In the light of the assurances that information on the exercise of Ministers' functions under the Bill will be published, and that the effectiveness of the Bill in Scotland will be kept under regular review, and given my reasonable and, I hope, eloquent reaction to the amendments, I invite hon. Members to withdraw the amendment and not to press the others.

Mr. Weir: I want to return to the point that I tried to pursue earlier by reminding the Minister that when he appeared with the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Advocate-General before the Scottish Affairs Committee on 7 November, the point about the position of the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament was clearly canvassed. The Minister was specifically asked whether the Bill would go back to the Scottish Parliament if there was major change. He said:

that is, to take it back to the Scottish Parliament—

That major change has come to pass, so does he not agree that it should go back to the Scottish Parliament? The Bill as agreed by the Scottish Parliament and with the passing of the Sewel motion will now be substantially different from the Bill that will be passed in this place. The Minister spoke of it and was taken up on the point. The Bill should therefore go back to the Scottish Parliament.

Amendment negatived.

Clause 4

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