Clause 43 - Application, discharge and variation

Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:30 am ar 29 Tachwedd 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I am pretty sure that I had a query on this clause. Ah, yes—may I ask the Minister to consider who will be able to initiate the process of application for a restraint order? I am mindful of the fact that the matter might be better addressed when we consider clause 68. However, past practice is that those who could initiate had to be police officers of superintendent rank or customs officers of equivalent rank. We are now to allow financial investigators of the sort specified in an order by the Secretary of State to do that. I understand the reason for that, but the Minister will understand that the earlier legislation provided that there must be a police superintendent or a customs officer of equivalent rank, to ensure that powers were used only in appropriate cases. What reassurance can the Minister provide about how the system will be set up, so as to ensure that the financial investigator who may initiate such applications commands confidence in the same way?

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Clause 43 lays down who may be able to apply for a restraint order, and sets out criteria such as those in existing legislation for the variation or discharge of restraint orders. In addition to changing the venue for restraint order hearings and bringing forward the point at which the orders may be made, the clause provides that the prosecutor, the director or an accredited financial investigator may make an application. We discussed accreditation during an earlier sitting when we discussed the setting up of the agency.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Ceidwadwyr, Spelthorne

That is one of the points that I was going to raise with the Minister. The director is mentioned in the clause. Will the Minister confirm whether that means the director in person, or any of the other people whom the director chooses to appoint? If I remember correctly, the director can appoint any number of people to discharge any of his responsibilities.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

We want the director to be able to pass his responsibilities down to appropriately trained people. This case will involve the director or those accredited by him as financial investigators. Such people will have the appropriate skill to ensure that restraint orders will be applied for only when they are justified.

For such reasons, we intend to give accredited financial investigators the ability to apply for restraint orders. That is a new measure. Accredited financial investigators are those who are accredited by the director in accordance with clause 3. They are likely to be employed primarily in the police force, in financial investigation units or by Customs and Excise. As I said regarding the venue, considerable expertise is sometimes required to make the investigations, and people will want to know that only appropriately qualified people will apply for them.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I appreciate that. However, there may be a difference between the consequences of misfeasance by a senior police officer or customs officer, and the disciplinary regime to which a financial investigator is subjected if powers are exceeded or used incorrectly. That is why I have greater confidence in a system that is reliant on police officers or customs officers who are subject to an established disciplinary regime and a standard complaints mechanism, rather than on a financial investigator who, presumably, has an ordinary civilian or civil service status. That is why we should approach that issue with caution, and I hope that when the Minister considers its details, he will ensure that the status of the financial investigator is such that there is a complaints or disciplinary procedure similar to those that apply to police and customs officers.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman said that it might be appropriate to discuss the matter when we debate a later clause. The Bill is complicated, but if he looks forward to clause 68, he will see that provisions are made for the oversight of such matters by a superintendent.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 43 ordered to stand part of the Bill.