Clause 290 - Report on exercise of powers

Part of Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:15 pm ar 8 Ionawr 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Ceidwadwyr, Spelthorne 6:15, 8 Ionawr 2002

I should be grateful if the Minister would say what sort of person that independent person should be, and what sort of selection process would lead to the point at which names were put to the Secretary of State. I am sure that others will be asked to go through the suggested names, rather than the Secretary of State having to do it himself. That is an important matter. The Minister used the phrase ''independent person'' but I believe that that person should be absolutely and transparently independent. Some guidance might reassure us on whether this is the right way to go. What sort of person are we talking about, and how will the selection process work?

When speaking to the amendment, the Minister said that it would be up to the independent person to say whether he was satisfied about the cases that were brought to his attention. What would happen if he found an explanation so poor that it was insupportable? Does the Minister intend to give the independent person powers to deal with individual abuses? I share the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield that, with the best will in the world, such a power will sooner or later be misused, even if not deliberately, and that some sort of injustice could easily result. Will the independent person have the power to do anything about serious abuses of that sort? If he is to have that power, where are the provisions to be found that would allow some redress?

At the end of the year, the independent person has to make a general report. Will he be able to make recommendations in that report, or will it be a simple factual report of what had happened during the year in question? Such reports will be of use to Parliament only if conclusions are drawn and recommendations made.

The Bill says that the report should be laid before Parliament, but is it the Minister's intention that Parliament should be given the chance to debate it and,

if necessary, vote on it? If changes are needed, will the Minister undertake to make amendments so that the power cannot be abused in future years?