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Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster): I think that I understand where my hon. Friend is leading the argument. Should not we be greatly concerned that, as he says, if the new clause is agreed, an untrained individual will not be liable, so the full force of the agency will be directed at the unscrupulous boss? That will lead to an enormous feeding frenzy for the lawyers who are involved in trying to unravel this rather ill-thought-through provision.
Mr. Wilshire: I understand my hon. Friend's point, but I am not sure whether the unscrupulous boss would be prosecuted under the Bill or any other legislation for aiding and abettingor whatever the technical phrase would bean employee.
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The hon. Gentleman and hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) served on the Committee and should be aware that employers in the regulated sector are required to train their employees. I think that he knows that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) said that he thought he could see where the argument was going. Perhaps he saw that I was trying to persuade the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok and others to vote against their own Government. That is where the argument is going. The greatest advocate of not watering down the Bill is the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok, and I look forward to hearing what he will say after hearing the Minister trying to water it down.
Mr. Wilshire: That may be so, but the person actually doing the laundering would be given an excuse. I am sure that the unscrupulous could find a way of protecting the proceeds of crime by shunting it down the line. I hope that I have said enough to cause Labour Members to have serious doubts about the loophole that is being proposed.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Anniesland (John Robertson) expressed concern about lesser sentences and punishments, as though, again, we were seeking to water the Bill down. I think that he has got the wrong end of the stick. I realise that a Member whose constituency has a serious drug problem will always want the guilty to suffer the maximum penalty, but to advance that argument is to misunderstand the point that we are making.
Let us say, for the purposes of my own argument, that I accept a maximum sentence of five years for the negligent offender. Let us not get into a discussion about whether we want to water that down. Surely the hon. Gentleman accepts that if five years is adequate for negligence, we should consider an even longer term for deliberate offenders. That is the only distinction that Conservative Members seek to draw: that there are two different crimes, one far worse than the other, and that one should attract a more severe punishment than the other.
Mr. Wilshire: Then the hon. Gentleman accepts our argument. The fact that he does not like our solution is one thing, but it is another thing to suggest, as was suggested in Committee, that we are the friends of the criminals because we want to dilute the Bill. However, he has at last accepted that that is not what we are trying to do. We are trying to achieve justice and fairness. If he thinks that five years is adequate for the negligence offence, he should have tabled an amendment to increase the sentence for the deliberate offence.
If I have helped Labour Members to understand that even their own Government can create loopholes, and if I can persuade just one Labour Member that we are not the criminal's friend and that we are talking a great deal of common sense, my speech has been well worth while.
Mr. Davidson: My speech follows that of my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Stinchcombe) by coincidence; he did not provoke me into speaking. I nevertheless think it worth repeating some of the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Anniesland (John Robertson) about the framework of our discussions. I think that the Tories were a disgrace in Committee, and are a disgrace today. I still believe that they are weak on pursuing the collaborators of criminals.
Criminals need professional advisers, and I consider those advisers as bad as, if not worse than, some of the criminals themselves. Severe action should be taken against them. The Conservatives' form can be held against them in that regard. The nationalists will not recall this because they were not present, but those of us who were in the Committee noted the Conservatives' view that negligence should be a complete, absolute, utter, total defence. They believe that it should enable people to get off everything altogether. There is a difference, however, between the adjustments that the Government have made and the adjustments that the Conservatives suggest that they have made. We have retained our principles while being prepared to make tactical changes, which is why I am prepared to accept what Ministers are proposing.
This is not a change in principle by the Conservatives. I believe that they are still in favour, in principle, of having negligence as a defence, but have been forced by political circumstance to modify that position. They are, therefore, putting forward the weakest suggestion that they can. It is interesting that we have heard from a variety of sources about the "not trained, bad night" defence for negligence.
Mr. Grieve: The hon. Gentleman will remember that, in Committee, one of the most powerful speeches against the negligence defence came from one of his Back-Bench colleagues. It therefore strikes me as odd that the change to which we have adjusted in the spirit of conciliation should be greeted with his particular brand of opprobrium.
Mr. Davidson: Those on my side of the Committee who are now prepared to support a different position did not perhaps fully appreciate the majesty of the Government's position at that stage. They have now recognised that there are improvements within the same set of principles. I suspect that the Conservatives have retained the principle of wishing to water down this measure entirely.
Let me return to the "not trained, bad night" defence. There is an offence of careless driving; there is also an offence of negligent driving, worded in various ways. People can be found guilty of manslaughter through careless driving. Negligence is not a defence in those circumstances; nor should it be. If someone killed other people or caused horrendous consequences as a result of carelessness while flying a plane or driving a train, we would not say, "That's all right; it was just negligence. It's a terrible shame, but we'll let them off." In those circumstances, negligence should not be a defence.
Mr. Davidson: Yes, but I take the view that manslaughter should not be excused on the ground of negligence. Negligence is, in itself, a culpable offence and ought to be subject to penalties. I accept that there will be some circumstances in which there is genuine negligence, but I believe that a defence of negligence would be argued in more cases than would be justified.
I and others referred in Committee to the scale of money laundering arising, for example, from the Nigerian incidents, in which billions of pounds were at stake. If someone involved in that exercise admitted negligence, perhaps on a plea bargain, would that mean that the maximum penalty to which they would be liable would be only £5,000?
Mr. Grieve: I explained earlierI am sorry if the hon. Gentleman did not understand methat level 5 on the standard scale is for summary jurisdiction only. It is the maximum fine that can be imposed in a magistrates court on the standard scale. There is, therefore, no diminution of the force of summary jurisdiction in relation to other offences in the Bill. If the matter were to go the Crown court, however, the fine would be at large; it could be up to any level.