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Mr. Grieve: From a sedentary position, the hon. Gentleman says, "Indeed not." In Committee, he tended to be the great exacerbator of all offences. Given the criminality of some of the penalties to which he wanted recourse, I do not think that I can mention them on the Floor of the House.
Mr. John Taylor (Solihull): In an echo of issues that were raised yesterday by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier), may I ask this? Are not the really big operators in money launderingthose who commit the most serious crimeslikely to be operating outside this jurisdiction? Has my hon. Friend turned his mind to that problem? Am I right in assuming that the Bill, as and when it becomes an Act, will apply only within our domestic jurisdiction?
Mr. Grieve: My hon. Friend is right that the jurisdiction is territorial, although there are clauses in the Bill that provide for international co-operation to prevent money laundering, including the exchange of information. I hope that we will have an opportunity to consider these matters further because they raise difficult issues about the propriety of exchanging information between states which may have been derived from confidential information obtained in the United Kingdom from, for instance, the Inland Revenue, through the director. My hon. Friend is also correct that those who derive benefits from the proceeds of crime in this country may well launder their money elsewhere.
The issue that we are considering concerns the regulated sector in this countrythose in banking, finance and accountancy who are asked to carry out transactions by clients which may reveal to them a suspicion or knowledge that the client may be dealing in tainted money. The Minister knows that Opposition Membersindeed, Members on both sides of the Housefind unexceptionable the principle of requiring disclosure by the regulated sector, and, indeed, outside it, where we hope it will take place. The question is how we enforce a criminal sanction on the regulated sector to ensure compliance that does not end up being unfair. The amendments would still allow that, curiously enough. Amendments Nos. 71 and 72 on their own would still allow the House, if it wanted, to remove the negligence element from the offence. They are consequential upon new clause 7.
New clause 7 suggests the creation of a separate and distinct offence. Rather than clause 330 rolling into one the dual offence of either knowing or suspecting or having reasonable grounds for knowing or suspectingas is currently the casewe suggest that it would be sensible
If the amendment were accepted, there would be two separate and distinct offences within the regulated sector. In the first case, the offence would be committed when someone knew or suspected that money laundering was taking place and did not make disclosure. That is a serious offence, punishable by up to five years' imprisonment. In the second case, the offence is similar but would be committed only when the person had reasonable grounds for knowing or suspecting. In those circumstances, the penalty would be only financial. In amendment No. 175, I stipulated
The essential feature of the new clause is that a person could not lose their liberty as a result of committing an offence through inadvertence. That ties in closely with general principles of law in a wide field of statutes, whereby the criminalisation of individuals for acts of negligence normally attracts only a financial penalty. For example, under the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 a negligent omission would generallywith very rare exceptionsattract only a financial penalty, albeit possibly a substantial one.
I commend the new clause to the House. If it were accepted, we would still be sending out a powerful message to the financial regulated sectortoo powerful, some might argue. In the light of the proposal that I made in Committee, I have great sympathy for those who say that there should not be an offence based on negligence at all. However, assuming that hon. Members desire that such an offence should exist, the new clause would provide a valuable distinction. It would also improve the drafting of the Bill, bearing in mind the comments that were made in Committee about the unwieldiness of clause 330.
Mr. Grieve: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, although, as he may have heard me say a few moments ago, I accept that amendment No. 175 does not fulfil the requirements that I should have wished of it. That is my fault, and I take full responsibility.
This makes no difference to the general issue on which the House can vote. The question is whether there should be a financial penalty for the offence of negligence. In England and Wales, level 5 on the standard scale is £5,000
If we found that there was a different scale of fines north of the border, hon. Members would have to decideand inform the Minister, if he was minded to go down that roadwhether they had a view of what the fine level should be. As a great respecter of the devolution settlement in Scotland, I acknowledge that there may be a degree of variety. However, some of the issues under discussion are reserved matters and it would be odd not to have uniformity as regards penalties north and south of the border. I suspect that even the hon. Gentleman might be capable of agreeing with me about that, but I may be mistaken.
Mr. Weir: I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman is saying. However, does he accept that if, by some mischance, the House voted to accept amendment No. 175, the clause would be rendered completely meaningless as far as Scotland is concerned, because the financial aspect will not be the same there? If he does not agree with that, does he think that the matter should be referred to the Scottish Parliament for a decision on Scots criminal law?
Mr. Grieve: No, I am afraid that I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman at all. His argument is without foundation. If hon. Members wish, they can vote on new clause 7. By doing so, they would demonstrate to the Government that they wished to have a separate, lesser penalty for negligence. The Minister, with the help of his advisers, would be in a position to tidy things upas he has done on many previous occasions. I see the Minister nodding his head approvingly. Indeed, if he were minded to accept the substance of the new clause, the normal practice would be for him to say so and I would then of course withdraw it. There is no problem in those circumstances.
There is some merit in the point that the Scottish nationalists are making. However, it should have been made in the Committee. Had they asked to serve on it, no doubt they could have made their representations there.
Annabelle Ewing (Perth): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. From reading Hansard this morning, I know that the matter that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Davidson) raises was mentioned many times yesterday and that the occupant of the Chair ruled it out of order on three separate occasions. For the sake of clarity, can we have another ruling on that, because there are many important matters to discuss and that would save everyone's time?