Proceeds of Crime Bill

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Mr. Grieve: My hon. Friend makes a perfectly sound point. In exactly the same way, the charity may have not only to hand back the shares but to make up the difference in value.

I am grateful that the Minister has been swayed by my arguments about sale. However, after our discussion, the issue may develop further than that and address tainted gifts generally. Although I appreciate that there is an obligation on us to close loopholes and ensure that people cannot get away with transferring assets through tainted gifts—I fully accept that that is a classic way of dissipating proceeds—innocent third parties who have received gifts or made purchases could be substantial losers, in a way that the public may consider unfair.

As the Minister will be aware from my new clause 5, I am happy with the notion that if such a shortfall exists, the burden should be on the defendant to make it good. I am worried that the innocent third party should not have to make good the amount if he or she was innocent at the time of receiving the gift or making the purchase, and was willing to return the value of what was held at the time of the demand. I urge the Minister to examine both examples. Although the situation is most acute in the case of a purchase, because of the potential difference in value between the date of obtaining the asset and the date of sale or transfer, the problem exists equally with a straightforward gift to an innocent third party. I cannot believe that the Minister or director will want to claw the value back from the innocent third party in a manner that may place them under an acute financial burden.

I hope that the Minister will consider both examples and let me know what he plans to do, because we must return to the issue on Report. I am grateful to him for listening carefully, and for the Committee's indulgence for my describing sitting rooms as drawing rooms. I am willing to withdraw—

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Mr. Ainsworth: We are, of course, hugely worried about prolonging this discussion, Mr. O'Brien—but I must clarify the situation. The hon. Gentleman must realise that in many circumstances it is no good transferring the liability back to the defendant, because he will have nothing more to confiscate. Therefore, we would potentially open up a loophole. I am determined that we will not do that.

Mr. Grieve: I understand the Minister's point, and there are two possibilities. The first possibility is that defendants own legitimately acquired assets as well as the assets that fall to be confiscated. In those circumstances, I accept that the likelihood is that the proceedings will completely clean defendants out. However, under new clause 5 as I have drafted it, if a defendant has anything left over, I would expect the director to be able to look to that fund to make good any shortfall. As has been said, the director would be able to look to such assets if there were a shortfall in the amount that he could recover.

However, let us suppose that that is not the case; let us imagine that the defendant has not got a penny left, and has transferred to an innocent third party an asset that, although it is recoverable, has substantially diminished in value through no fault of the third party. Does the Minister think that it is fair that in such circumstances the innocent third party should make good the shortfall?

The Chairman: The same question was asked more than an hour ago, and I do not intend to allow that discussion to be reopened. The hon. Gentleman must decide whether to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Grieve: I decided some time ago, but the Minister's intervention prompted me to make a further comment. I am grateful to him for listening, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 78 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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Clause 79

Value: the basic rule

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Davidson: May I seek clarification from the Minister about subsection (2)? How is the value to be assessed, and will he clarify whether the value set on a chattel will be subject to dispute by the prosecution, or the agency, to prevent it from being undervalued?

Mr. Ainsworth: Appropriate people will be employed to value such gifts. Methods are laid down for doing that. I do not possess those skills—and neither, I think, does my hon. Friend.

Clause 79 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 80 to 83 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 84

Property: general provisions

The Minister of State, Scotland Office (Mr. George Foulkes): I beg to move amendment No. 50, in page 51, line 31, leave out from 'security' to end of line 32.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 133 and 267.

Mr. Foulkes: My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department has done a superb job, and he deserves our congratulations—and a little rest, which is why I am moving these amendments.

The amendments, to parts 2, 3 and 4 respectively, will ensure that leases that are not long are not included in the definition of an interest in Scotland. They are required to bring clauses 84, 235 and 329 in line with the definition of ''interest'' in subsection (1) of clause 310.

Clause 84, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 85 to 93 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

        Further consideration adjourned.—[Mrs. McGuire.]

        Adjourned accordingly at ten minutes past Six o'clock till Thursday 6 December at five minutes to Nine o'clock.

Column Number: 489

The following Members attended the Committee:
O'Brien, Mr. Bill (Chairman)
Ainsworth, Mr. Bob
Baird, Vera
Baker, Norman
Brooke, Mrs.
Clark, Mrs. Helen
Davidson, Mr.
Field, Mr. Mark
Foulkes, Mr.
Grieve, Mr.

Column Number: 490

Harris, Mr. Tom
Hesford, Stephen
Lucas, Ian
McCabe, Mr.
McGuire, Mrs.
Robertson, John
Stinchcombe, Mr.
Stoate, Dr.
Watson, Mr.
Wilshire, Mr.

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