Proceeds of Crime Bill

[back to previous text]

The Chairman: Order. If the Chair were to notice any hon. Member doing anything like that, it would be ruled strictly out of order. Fortunately, at this time of year, the Chair has a tendency to exercise the Nelson technique.

Mr. Grieve: Thank you, Mr. Gale.

The Minister's comments are welcome. I hope that what he has said about the effect on the pension industry is right. Most Committee members have to

Column Number: 783

declare an interest in Equitable Life. If it turns out that as a result of an action for the recovery of a sum under the provision, Equitable Life is tipped into complete insolvency, the Minister may regret his words. However, I accept what he has said, and I see no reason to dispute the amendments, although I look forward to reading them when they are incorporated in the text, as that makes it much easier to see the relationship between the clauses.

I have a query about costs, in connection with new clause 8. The Minister has touched on that matter, and I assume that the principle will be that the costs are recoverable from the pension fund or pension provider. Subsection (7) of the new clause states:

    ''The order may provide for the recovery by the trustees or managers of the scheme (whether by deduction from any amount which they are required to pay in pursuance of the agreement or otherwise) of costs incurred by them in—

    (a) complying with the order''.

I assume from that that trustees are protected in the same way as they would be if the policy were surrendered in the usual manner, and that they are allowed to recover their costs, and to deduct them, in the usual way. That is my understanding, and if the Minister will confirm it, I will be satisfied.

Mr. Ainsworth: That is also my understanding of the matter.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 273, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 274 and 275 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 276

Consent orders

Amendments made: No. 316, in page 159, line 38, leave out '275' and insert '272'.

No. 317, in page 159, line 39, after first 'and', insert

    'and sections 273 to 275 apply to such an order only in accordance with section [Consent orders: pensions].

    ( )'.—[Mr. Bob Ainsworth.]

Clause 276, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 276, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 277 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 278

Section 277: supplementary

6.30 pm

Mr. Grieve: I beg to move amendment No. 404, in page 161, line 18, at end insert—

    '(c)Any item of property representing the original property shall be known as related property.'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 405, in page 161, line 24, leave out '(the representative property)'.

Column Number: 784

No. 396, in page 161, line 27, leave out 'representative' and insert 'related'.

No. 397, in page 161, line 30, leave out '(the representative property)'

No. 398, in page 161, line 34, leave out 'representative' and insert 'related'.

Mr. Grieve: I hope that I may be excused for this group of amendments. I am mindful of the fact that the Minister may tell me that I have got the whole thing wrong. The origin of the amendments was that, when I was reading clause 277 onwards, the terms used seemed mysteriously to turn into new terms as the clause progressed. In particular, ''related property'' turned into ''representative property'' half way through.

There may be a good reason for that, but I found it all a bit muddling. By the time I reached the supplementary provision, I found it even more difficult to follow the relationship between related and representative property. Perhaps related property could turn into representative property, but in such circumstances, might it not be simpler to refer to it as ''related property'' throughout?

That is what I have tried to do with the amendments. If the Minister can give me a good reason why related property should undergo that metamorphosis into representative property, I shall happily withdraw the amendment. However, it is worth remembering that, especially in this context, the words are likely to become terms used in common parlance in legal discussion. Barristers will say, ''We are dealing here, your honour, with related property.'' If at all possible, the terminology should be maintained unless there is a good and sufficient reason why it should not be.

The Minister may be able to provide me with such an explanation, in which case I shall keep quiet and withdraw the amendment. On the other hand, he may believe that there is some sense in what I am saying—in which case, subject to what is in his script, he may go away and consider the matter further.

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Two things worry me. The first is why my hon. Friend the Minister of State dismisses everyone's anxieties with such ease and reassures everyone in the Committee, while I seem singularly unable to do so. I shall go away over Christmas and reflect on his techniques.

Mr. Foulkes: I do not want to interrupt my hon. Friend, but I assure him that the only reason is because he gallantly takes on the most difficult parts of the Bill, and leaves the easy ones for me, for which I am very grateful.

Mr. Ainsworth: It is more than that. It must have something to do with the accent or the way in which my hon. Friend presents himself.

Mr. Mark Field: The reason is that it is clear that the Minister of State is simply reading from a civil service brief, and it is really out of sympathy that we decide not to press matters with him.

Mr. Ainsworth: What a dreadful allegation.

Column Number: 785

The other thing that worries me is that, just as the hon. Member for Beaconsfield read through the clause and became increasingly worried and decided to table the amendments, I read through the clause with the benefit of other people's advice. As the hon. Gentleman said, it is fiendishly difficult to understand. I shall try to reassure him, because at least I have come to an understanding of the concept of related property and recoverable property and the need to keep at least those two separate terms in the Bill. The matter is, perhaps, not quite as simple as he believes. In his amendments, he seems to have decided to turn his face against ''representative property'' and to try to replace it completely. I shall find out how far I can get in trying to assure him about this difficult aspect.

The amendments would insert a new definition of related property into the clause and would replace references in it to ''representative property'' with the term ''related property''. The clause defines some of the terms used in clause 277. It is intended to facilitate the operation of clause 277. The original property is, of course, the property initially obtained through unlawful conduct. That original property is then defined as being related to any representative property—that is, any property that has been obtained in place of the original property. Items of representative property are also related to each other, as well as to the original property. The model is, therefore, very much that of a family tree.

Related property, as currently defined in the Bill, is therefore different from representative property. Related property covers both the original and representative property. It took a while for the penny to drop with me, and the hon. Gentleman probably got there much more quickly than I did. The fundamental difference between related property and representative property is that related property encompasses the original property as well as representative property.

Mr. Grieve: I thought that related property was the property that was related to the original. I accept that the original property could be related to the other property.

Mr. Ainsworth: I twisted myself into a lot more turns than that when I was trying to understand the provision.

Clause 277 essentially seeks to regulate how the court will make recovery orders, if the enforcement authority seeks the recovery of property from different parts of the property family tree. That may include the original property, property that represents the original property, or any other representative property. All those are covered under the current definition of related property in clause 278. Clause 277 allows for the recovery of some of the related items of property, or a part of any of the related items of property, if that is what is needed to achieve the satisfaction of the director's rights to recover the original property. That would allow the recovery of some of the original property and some items of representative property.

The effect of amendment No. 404 would be that, for the purposes of clauses 277 and 278, representative property would become known as related property.

Column Number: 786

However, related property is already defined under clause 278 (1)(b). That definition would remain in the Bill, while representative property is already defined under clause 303. Under the amendment, clause 278 would contain two different definitions of related property, one of which included original and representative property, and one of which included only representative property. That would clearly be undesirable and confusing.

Mr. Stinchcombe: In that case, I wonder whether it would be clearer if the words ''related property'' were put in brackets under clause 278(1)(b), mirroring the way in which representative property is referred to in subsection (3)(b).

Mr. Ainsworth: I know that my hon. Friend is trying to be helpful—but as I stand here, I have to say that it does not feel that way.

Mr. Grieve: The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Stinchcombe) picked up exactly the point that sprang to my mind. The difficulty lies in the use of the phrases ''related to each other'' and ''related property''. If subsection (1)(b) had stated that the original property and any items of property that represent the original property are related to each other and are known as related property, all the mystery that has surrounded clauses 277 and 278 would have disappeared. I did not interpret the wording as meaning that. I thought, of course, that the two pieces of property were related to each other. The statement seems rather banal, in all the circumstances. The phrase ''related property'' sounds like a term of art, but then it appears and disappears. The Minister could solve that problem by amending subsection (1)(b).

Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 18 December 2001