Clause 69 - Powers of court and receiver

Part of Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:45 pm ar 29 Tachwedd 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:45, 29 Tachwedd 2001

I recognise the worries of the hon. Members for Beaconsfield and for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field), which are wrapped up with concerns about compensation. Both hon. Gentlemen are right to say that some of the provisions are new, although some are based on existing legislation. The hon. Member for Beaconsfield said that the provisions were wider. That point has been made in other contexts, and I understand why he made it. The provisions in subsections (2)(b), (3)(c) and (4) are not in existing legislation.

I will address the amendment, although I know that some of the concerns of the hon. Member for Beaconsfield arise in connection with compensation. The amendment would spell out explicitly that a person exercising pre-emptive restraint and management receivership powers must exercise them so as to interfere as little as possible with the existing financial arrangements of the defendant. The amendment would state explicitly how we would expect the powers to be exercised, and, indeed, how they have been exercised in practice for many years.

The amendment is unnecessary. It also creates a problem because the legislative steer in clause 69 applies both to realisable property held by the defendant and to realisable property held by the recipient of a tainted gift. The hon. Member for Beaconsfield would not necessarily want the defendant's interests to be paramount in the same way as those of the holder of a tainted gift whose property has been seized.

The exercise of the restraint and receivership powers is discretionary. The Bill enables any person who believes that the powers of restraint or receivership are exercised inappropriately to apply for a variation of the relevant order, and there is an appeal to the Court of Appeal against refusal to vary that request.

I must point out the consequences of some additions to the legislation. Subsection (3)(c) and subsection (4) enable the defendant or the recipient of a tainted gift to challenge the management receiver's decision to dispose of a particular asset on the grounds that it is irreplaceable. The provisions have regard to the fact that the defendant has not been convicted at that stage, so he should not be obliged to lose irreplaceable assets.

The management receiver will be obliged to manage the business under his control in the best interests of the financial well-being of that business. However, there may be parts of, or assets in, that business that are of special interest to the owner, which, if a hard-headed business look were taken at the matter, should be disposed of. If we had seized the assets of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson), the management receiver might decide that it would be better to sell The Spectator.