Clause 278 - Section 277: supplementary

Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:30 pm ar 18 Rhagfyr 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 6:30, 18 Rhagfyr 2001

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.'.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

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

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'.

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

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.

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

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.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Minister of State, Scottish Office, Minister of State (Scotland Office)

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.

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

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

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Ceidwadwyr, Cities of London and Westminster

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.

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

What a dreadful allegation.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

Photo of Mr Paul Stinchcombe Mr Paul Stinchcombe Llafur, Wellingborough

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).

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

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.

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

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).

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

The Minister is certainly not prepared to give such a commitment, because he fears that if he unravels all this he will create so many problems that will jump up in so many different parts of the Bill. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough and the hon. Member for Beaconsfield will accept that. Given the explanation of the need for those two separate terms, and the acceptance that this is a fiendishly difficult matter to define and draft, I assure the Committee that if we can make it clearer, we will be happy to pick up those suggestions and do so. However, I cannot make a commitment here and now to make an alteration to a complicated part of the Bill when the consequences of doing so are not clear. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

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

I shall be happy to withdraw the amendment. The Minister has provided a clear explanation. At the risk of repetition, I must emphasise the fact that the problem lies in clause 278(1)(b), which the Minister said defined related property. However, when one reads it, it does not. It merely says that

''original property and items of property which represent the original property are related to each other.''

A definitions clause is needed for related property. Something that is murky and almost impossible to see through would thereby at least start to become opaque.

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

I am obliged. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 278 ordered to stand part of the Bill.