Clause 13 - Interest on unpaid sums

Part of Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:30 pm ar 22 Tachwedd 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Ceidwadwyr, Spelthorne 2:30, 22 Tachwedd 2001

We will gloss over that. The Minister apologised for not being present this afternoon.

I believed that I heard the Minister say that a fixed rate of interest would be paid, and I said that that was probably not what he meant. Comment was made from a sedentary position that that was not what was said and I have no doubt that when the Under-Secretary replies, the exact rate of interest to be paid will be clarified. I will not repeat my argument, and I made these comments only so that you would know where we left off, Mr. O'Brien.

A further point worries me about the payment of interest on unpaid sums. There are opportunities for delay. Before we discussed this clause, we debated whether matters should occur immediately, in a specified period, after six months, or after 12 months. The Minister said that the time could be even longer than that and, if that were the case, interest would be chargeable. There are occasions when my hon. Friends and I are accused of being soft on criminals. There are also occasions when Labour Members have amazed looks when we appear to be harder than them. That shows how reasonable, flexible, thinking and responsive my hon. Friends and I are, unlike Labour Members who have one record that is played repetitively.

At the risk of sounding harder than the Minister, I am puzzled why interest is not instantly payable. A debt is a debt, and if interest is chargeable on a debt, it should be chargeable from the moment that the debt arises. I appreciate that there is a question about what happens if there is a later collapse. However, it is possible to repay the interest with interest so that we see that justice is done. A specified period of six months, 12 months or 24 months before the interest kicks in means that large sums could be involved. We should consider closing the potential loophole of playing a delaying game to avoid paying interest until later.

Why have we not had an explanation about the interest, which can and should be paid straight away, and about what the rate of interest should be? We have considered how matters should progress if a court deems fit and whether there should be a right of appeal against the imposition, or even the rate, of interest. I am curious to hear the Minister's response.