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Standing Committee Debates
Proceeds of Crime Bill

Proceeds of Crime Bill

Standing Committee B

Thursday 6 December 2001


[Mr. John McWilliam in the Chair]

Proceeds of Crime Bill

Clause 111

Inadequacy of available amount

Amendment proposed [this day]: No. 194, in page 68, line 16, leave out 'or discharge'.—[Mr. Bob Ainsworth.]

2.30 pm

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

The Chairman: I remind the Committee that with this we are taking the following: Government amendment No. 195.

Clause stand part.

Government amendments Nos. 261 and 262.

Government new clause 7—Inadequacy of available amount: discharge of order (No. 2).

Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland): Before I was cut off in my prime at 11.25, I was drawing the Minister's attention to subsection (2) of new clause 7, the second line of which refers to ''section (J804)''. The Committee Clerk has subsequently informed me that that should read ''section 95''. I see some hon. Members nodding and some shaking their heads; I do not know the significance of that.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): Section 98.

Mr. Carmichael: I am obliged. Otherwise, the new clause does not make sense. I should also explain to the Committee that unfortunately—or perhaps fortunately—I have commitments in the Chamber this afternoon in respect of the fisheries debate, in which I have a substantial constituency interest, so I shall not be here later. [Hon. Members: ''Shame.''] I anticipated that reaction, especially from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Davidson). I am sure that he will agree that this merely reinforces case for having more Scottish Liberal lawyers in the House of Commons.

John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland): You will be greatly missed—if not by Government Members, then by the Opposition.

The Chairman: Order. I shall not be greatly missed. I shall be here, because the Committee could not sit without me.

Mr. Carmichael: I am greatly touched—but no doubt that that comes as news to no one.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 195, in page 68, line 23, leave out 'discharge the confiscation order' and insert

    'vary the order by substituting for the amount required to be paid such smaller amount as the court believes is just.'.—[Mr. Bob Ainsworth.]

Clause 111, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 112 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 113

Conviction or other disposal of accused

Mr. Ainsworth: I beg to move amendment No. 196, in page 69, line 4, leave out 'absconds' and insert 'is unlawfully at large'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 198, 200, 201, 203, 204 and 210.

Mr. Ainsworth: These are purely drafting amendments, which bring the terminology into line with part 4. They also take account of the difference in language in Scottish law compared with English law. For instance, ''abscond'' becomes ''is unlawfully at large''.

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield): I would like clarification. Is the change of wording from ''absconds'' to ''is unlawfully at large'' designed to reflect Scottish or English practice? I assumed that because the word ''absconds'' appeared in the original legislation, it was compatible with Scottish legal practice. Was there a drafting error in the original Bill, and is that why we are changing the wording to ''is unlawfully at large''? If not, why on earth are we making the change?

Mr. Ainsworth: I am advised that the word ''absconds'' is a purely English legal term, and that the terminology in Scotland is ''is unlawfully at large''. The new wording is in line with the Scottish legal system.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): I assume that the Minister is correctly advised. However, I am puzzled because although his amendments propose to change the body of the cause, the heading for this set of clauses, which is part of the Bill rather than of the explanatory notes, would still be ''Accused absconds''. If we are making the change because Scots law does not recognise the word ''absconds'', should we not change the heading as well?

Mr. Ainsworth: The hon. Gentleman may well have a point, and we will think about that. I am not sure that the word is as important in a cross-heading as it would be in the body of the clause. None the less, I thank the hon. Gentleman for pointing that out.

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster): It seems to me that there is a difference of meaning. The word ''absconds'' suggests that an individual had first been arrested, while the phrase ''unlawfully at large'' suggests an individual who may not yet have been arrested. There may be a subtle difference of meaning between the two. The Minister of State, Scotland Office—who is not here at the moment—may be able to advise us whether there would be a slightly different meaning here compared with the parts of the Bill that apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Mr. Ainsworth: I am not sure whether there is a difference in meaning; I do not pretend to be a linguistic expert. A person who has absconded must be unlawfully at large. Fundamentally, the terminology is the same. If the hon. Gentleman is trying to suggest that he has a greater knowledge of Scottish legal terminology than me, I certainly bow to him. I do not think that there is a difference in meaning; it is merely that different terminology is recognised in different jurisdictions.

Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Pollok) rose—

Mr. Ainsworth: I give way to my hon. Friend, who will, I am sure, enlighten us.

Mr. Davidson: This is, perhaps, the only time that the Committee has missed having a Scottish Liberal lawyer present—but perhaps I can explain: the term has a special definition in Pollok if a person has absconded from a drawing room.

Mr. Ainsworth: I was sure that my hon. Friend would enlighten us, and I am not disappointed.

Mr. Grieve: When the Minister was asked to speak to the amendment, my initial impression was that it was a consequence of trying to bring the English and Scottish parts of the Bill into line. In fact, following close examination, it is clear that the amendment rectifies an error in the drafting of the original legislation. It will be helpful if the Minister can mention to the Committee further clauses in which this may occur, so that we know whether we are dealing with amendments that bring the law into line or original drafting errors.

Mr. Hawkins: Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be helpful if the Minister and his advisers let all members of the Committee know in advance when we were to discuss amendments that correct bad or inaccurate original drafting? That would be more helpful than discovering the fact only when the Minister stands up to speak.

The Chairman: Order. The Minister can speak only to this group of amendments, because these are the only amendments that we are discussing. If the hon. Gentleman is advising the Minister to do something when we discuss subsequent groups, that is a different matter, but I hope that he is not advising him to speak to groups of amendments that we have not reached.

Mr. Ainsworth: I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. I did not try to deceive him in any way. I said that amendments had been tabled to the clause to bring it into line. He will notice that the word ''may'' is replaced by the word ''must'', and that is most important. I also flagged up the difference in terminology.

Mr. Grieve: I was not suggesting in any way that the Minister intended to deceive. We are trying to discuss a number of amendments quickly, and we know that the underlying principle is to bring the English and Scottish mandatory and discretionary requirements into line with each other. This is a mixed group of amendments, some of which seek to do that, and others of which would correct the original poor drafting.

The Chairman: Order. I hope that nobody thought that I was accepting an intervention on an intervention just then. I had made a ruling, so I invited the Minister to speak on what was technically a point of order.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 306, in page 69, line 10, leave out 'may' and insert 'must'.

No. 198, in page 69, line 14, leave out 'thinks' and insert 'believes'.—[Mr. Bob Ainsworth.]

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley): On a point of order, Mr. McWilliam. I should be grateful for clarification of amendment No. 198.

The Chairman: Order. That amendment has already been debated. We cannot go back to it now. It has already been accepted.

Mr. Ainsworth: I beg to move amendment No. 199, in page 69, line 19, leave out '94(10)' and insert '94(11)'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 211, 212, 216, 265 and 266.

Mr. Ainsworth: These are purely drafting amendments. They are designed to correct erroneous cross-references. Clause 144(8) deals with tainted gifts and their recipients. Amendment No. 216 ensures that the restraint order can be obtained against the recipient of a gift at an appropriate time, and that a gift made within a six-year period will be caught.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 200, in page 69, line 22, leave out 'an absconder' and insert 'unlawfully at large'.

No. 201, in page 69, line 24, leave out 'an absconder' and insert 'unlawfully at large'.

Clause 113, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 114

Accused neither convicted nor acquitted

Amendments made: No. 307, in page 69, line 36, leave out 'may' and insert 'must'.

No. 203, in page 69, line 40, leave out 'thinks' and insert 'believes'.

No. 204, in page 69, line 44, at end insert—

    '(ba) section 94(11) applies as if the reference to subsection (2) were to subsection (1) of this section;''.—[Mr. Bob Ainsworth.]

2.45 pm

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I beg to move amendment No. 205, in page 70, line 1, leave out 'and 106' and insert ', 106, 107 and 108'.


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Prepared 6 December 2001