All 5 Baroness Williams of Trafford contributions to the Criminal Finances Act 2017

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Thu 9th Mar 2017
Criminal Finances Bill
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2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 28th Mar 2017
Criminal Finances Bill
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Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 28th Mar 2017
Criminal Finances Bill
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Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Mon 3rd Apr 2017
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Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 25th Apr 2017
Criminal Finances Bill
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3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords

Criminal Finances Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Criminal Finances Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 9th March 2017

(7 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Criminal Finances Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 21 February 2017 - (21 Feb 2017)
Moved by
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, serious and organised crime threatens our national security and prosperity, but for the victims the greatest impact is the harm that it inflicts on their lives and personal well-being. This criminality can affect anyone: from those caught up in gang warfare to the slaves forced to work or subjected to abuse by human-trafficking gangs, to the victims of scams and cyberattacks designed to steal their money and that of their friends and families. It is all-pervading—it undermines our safety, prevents prosperity and corrodes communities. The perpetrators of these crimes do so largely to make money—that is almost always their primary motivation. The Government have therefore brought forward the Criminal Finances Bill to combat the money laundering that allows criminals to fund their lavish lifestyles and reinvest their illicit gains in their criminal enterprises.

The origins of this legislation lie in the Government’s 2013 Serious and Organised Crime Strategy, which sets out a clear goal of working with the private sector to make the UK a more hostile place for financial criminals. More recently, last year the Government’s Action Plan for Anti-money Laundering and Counter-terrorist Finance identified how to build on the UK’s risk-based approach to addressing these parallel threats. As noble Lords may well be aware, the tactics used by serious criminals are often employed by those seeking to fund terrorist-related activity, so the police and others must use similar methods in their response to both. The Bill will give effect to the legislative aspects of the action plan, making it a key part of one of the most significant changes to our anti-money laundering and counterterrorist finance regime in over a decade.

Specifically, the Bill will help law enforcement officers to tackle money laundering, recover the proceeds of crime and international corruption, and, where possible, return these assets to victims. Part 1 provides for unexplained wealth orders, or UWOs, as I will refer to them—a valuable new device to investigate those suspected of money laundering, requiring them to explain the source of their wealth to a court. Where they cannot do so, law enforcement agencies can look to recover those assets. I recognise that there may be questions about the operation of this power and it may help noble Lords if I briefly clarify how it will work.

If a law enforcement agency suspects someone of involvement in serious crime where their wealth appears to exceed their known income, it can apply to the court for a UWO. The power can also be applied to non-European politicians or officials who may be involved in corrupt activities but where evidence of their links to criminality is not easily available. The individual would then need to satisfy the court that their property had been lawfully acquired. If they did not provide an adequate explanation, the authorities could seek to recover their property. Crucially, these orders are only an investigative tool; the tests for any further legal action, including prosecution or civil recovery, would still need to be satisfied.

The Bill will also enhance the existing seizure and forfeiture powers in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, also known as POCA. Although the police can currently seize cash, they cannot do likewise with money in bank accounts or where criminals store their profits within other items of value, such as casino chips, precious metals and jewels. As criminals adapt, so must we, and we are extending these powers accordingly. The provisions seek to extend the use of another useful investigative tool—disclosure orders—to money-laundering investigations.

This Government are committed to working in partnership with business on these crucial issues. A key element of this partnership will be the changes that we are making to the suspicious activity reports, or SARs, regime, which allows regulated companies such as banks to provide critical intelligence to our law enforcement agencies. In particular, the Bill will create a specific gateway to allow the sharing of information between regulated companies so that they can submit better-quality reports.

This approach has been piloted under the Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Taskforce, otherwise known as JMLIT, and I have heard first hand from both banks and the NCA about the positive results that it is delivering. For example, from May to July 2016 the JMLIT helped to deliver 37 arrests of individuals suspected of money laundering, the closure of 114 suspicious bank accounts and the restraint of £145,000 of suspected criminal funds.

In addition to these measures on money laundering, Part 3 of the Bill creates vital new offences of corporate failure to prevent tax evasion. This means that we will be able to hold to account companies which unreasonably fail to prevent their staff criminally facilitating the evasion of taxes, either in the UK or overseas. These measures will ensure that anyone wishing to do business here must have the highest possible standards of compliance and enforcement, helping the UK to maintain our place as a world leader in tackling corruption and tax evasion.

I have spoken primarily about criminal activity but, as I have said, we must also address the vulnerabilities in our financial system that are exploited by terrorists. As such, Part 2 of the Bill makes complementary changes to ensure that relevant measures being provided for money-laundering investigations will also be available for investigations into terrorist financing. By starving terrorist groups of funding, we aim to take away their ability to buy weapons, plan attacks and fund the propaganda that incites others to follow their evil ideologies.

Throughout the Bill’s scrutiny in the House of Commons, the Bill was the subject of notable cross-party support. There is consensus that these measures will make a real difference in the fight against money laundering and terrorist finance, and I trust that noble Lords will reach the same conclusion. However, there have been, as ever, some areas where we have been pushed to do more. I am pleased to say that the Government have listened and we have amended the Bill on Report in the Commons to allow for the civil recovery of any proceeds of gross human rights abuse overseas. This amendment was prompted by the horrific treatment of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian tax lawyer. I have read about this case; Magnitsky’s treatment was truly shocking, and it is only one example of the many atrocious human rights violations committed globally every year. I welcome the fact that we have taken action, sending a clear statement that we will not allow human rights abusers to launder their criminal assets through the UK.

I am also sure that noble Lords will be interested in the issue of company ownership transparency in the British Overseas Territories and Crown dependencies. I stress that this Government have led the way in the fight against global corruption and we remain committed to working with these territories on this agenda.

I know that these topics, and others, will be of interest to many noble Lords and I look forward to debating them today and over the coming weeks. This is an important piece of legislation. It will make a significant contribution towards tackling the twin threats of money laundering and terrorist financing. The men and women of our law enforcement agencies do great work in combating those threats, and many in the private sector are dedicated to helping with this effort. The Bill will help provide them with the powers and legislative framework they need to do so more effectively. We continue to work closely with law enforcement agencies, the regulated sector and the devolved Administrations on the provisions and may bring forward some further technical, but essential, amendments in Committee. I will, of course, keep noble Lords updated.

The UK is a great place to do business. We should be proud of our status as a global financial centre, and we must protect it. We are a world leader in the fight against global corruption: this is important work and it must continue. We must do all we can to protect the most vulnerable in our society, to keep everyone safe and prosperous. I beg to move.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this Second Reading. We have had a very constructive debate and consensus across the piece that there should be general support for the Bill. Clearly, we will take a few things further in Committee—I think I know what they are.

The noble Baroness, Lady Stern, said that I must be very happy to be introducing a Bill such as this. Yes, I am. It will further enhance our ability to bring to book those who seek to engage in corruption and tax evasion and benefit from all those other proceeds of crime.

I will turn first to the Crown dependencies and overseas territories, because it is what most noble Lords have mentioned today. The Government agree about the importance of combating grand corruption. International corruption threatens the progress of many developing nations, and this country must do everything in its power to leverage our international status, and that of our financial sector, to combat it.

There is clearly still much to do, but the Crown dependencies and overseas territories with a financial centre have made significant progress on the commitments that they made in the run-up to the London anti-corruption summit last year. That summit positioned the UK as a global leader in the fight against corruption, and the Government have not changed their position. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and many other noble Lords pointed out, the UK has created its own public register. We are leading the way, and we hope that others will follow. Progress is being made, and I encourage noble Lords to recognise the considerable amount of work that is going on in this area. I take this opportunity to thank my noble friends Lord Flight and Lord Faulks for outlining the progress that is going on in the Crown dependencies as we speak.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked whether we can legislate for the overseas territories and Crown dependencies. We have the power to legislate for the overseas territories and Crown dependencies, but we do so almost always with consent. Where we do not, it is on moral and human rights issues, such as homosexuality and the death penalty. However, just because we can legislate for them does not mean that we should do so when we are working with them to implement existing agreements on a consensual basis. This has already delivered significant achievements, and it is right that we continue with this approach.

Obviously, our long-term ambition remains that publicly accessible registers of beneficial ownership will become the global standard. Should this happen, we would expect all jurisdictions to meet this standard, including the overseas territories and the Crown dependencies.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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I welcome the fact that discussions are continuing with the overseas territories, but they seem to be left entirely open-ended. In my contribution, I asked for a deadline. I do not believe that the Minister will give me one now, but there has to be some point beyond which we say to the overseas territories, “We’ve tried discussing this with you, we’ve tried to carry you with us, but if you’re not coming, then we have to take positive action”.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I hope I can be helpful to the noble Lord. Progress is being made, but at a point at which progress is not made, we may have to take a different view. As we see it now, the overseas territories have come an awfully long way from where they were even this time last year. My noble friends have given the House an update on how much progress the Crown dependencies are making. The point is that there is progress. Were progress not to be there, I might have given a different response to the noble Lord. I hope he is satisfied thus far with what I am saying.

Lord Anderson of Swansea Portrait Lord Anderson of Swansea
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Is there not the danger in the argument of a level playing field of a comprehensive public register across the board that that will never be achieved, because there will always be some countries which would hold out against it? All one can reasonably hope for is the greatest measure of agreement.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Lord is absolutely right that we will never get a global homogenous position with every country being equally compliant. We are aiming for those territories and Crown dependencies to work towards the standard to which we aspire. That is where we are at this point. I hope both noble Lords are satisfied with that.

I trust that this House, like the Commons, will recognise the constitutional settlement that we have with these territories and agree that we should look to work consensually with them rather than enforcing legislation.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and my noble friend Lord Faulks made the point that there is no point in legislating if law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to deliver. I understand the concerns raised regarding law enforcement and the resources available fully to implement these new powers. I am pleased to say that £764 million has been invested in law enforcement agencies since 2006 and that more than £257 million has been invested over the past three years under the asset recovery incentivisation scheme—otherwise known as ARIS—which returns recovered assets back to the front line. These moneys are used by law enforcement for reinvestment in law enforcement capabilities or in community crime prevention schemes.

In addition, the Home Office share of ARIS is invested in front-line capabilities, including the regional organised crime units, ROCUs, which have received more than £100 million in direct funding from the Home Office since 2013-14. We reformed ARIS to boost the resources available to tackle serious and organised crime. A top slice of £5 million has been set aside every year until the end of this Parliament to fund key national asset recovery capabilities.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, also asked which agencies can use the powers in the Bill. The powers in the Bill can be used by a variety of law enforcement agencies, not just the NCA. The police, the Serious Fraud Office, HMRC, the Crown Prosecution Service and immigration officers will be able to use the new powers in the Bill to investigate money laundering and seize criminal assets.

My noble friend Lord Faulks asked about the effect of partial compliance with a UWO. If there is compliance or purported compliance, the rebuttable presumption that the property is recoverable does not arise. However, law enforcement has valuable information and can pursue an investigation, if relevant. If the purported compliance is false or misleading, it will be an offence.

My noble friend also asked why so few UWOs are predicted—20 per year—and why the amount expected to be recovered as a result of UWOs is so small. A number of other noble Lords alluded to this. I reassure noble Lords that the figure given in the impact assessment is a conservative estimate based on the views of operational practitioners. It is not a definitive indication of how often this power will be used. The Government are keen that these powers are used in as broad a range of cases as possible, and we are already actively engaging with law enforcement and prosecutors to encourage the use of all the new powers being introduced by the Bill. Ultimately, it will be for the enforcement authorities, which are operationally independent, to decide when and how often to use these new powers. We will carefully monitor and review the use of UWOs once they are introduced. This will inform future changes that may be needed to ensure that they are being used to their maximum effect.

My noble friend also asked what we have learned from the use of UWOs in Australia. As part of the work developing our draft legislation, we have noted with interest the experience of other jurisdictions which have existing provisions for UWOs, Australia being one of them.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and other noble Lords spoke about corporate failure to prevent other economic crime and asked why the Government have not created a corporate liability offence in respect of failure to prevent economic crime. The damage caused by economic crime perpetrated on behalf of, or in the name of, companies to individuals, businesses, the wider economy and the reputation of the United Kingdom as a place to do business is a very serious matter. However, the Government believe that it would be wrong to rush into legislation in this area and that there is a need to establish whether changes to the law are justified.

On corporate criminal liability for economic crime, the Government launched a public call for evidence on 13 January—which I think one noble Lord alluded to—which is open until 24 March. This is part of a potentially two-part consultation process. It has requested and will examine evidence for and against the case for reform and seeks views on a number of possible options, such as the Bribery Act failure to prevent model. Should the response the Ministry of Justice receives justify changes to the law, a consultation on a firm proposal would follow. We are therefore not in a position to comment on the timetable for reform, should that be the way forward.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, made a point about SARs reform, which was mentioned during the consultation on the Bill but is distinctly lacking in the Bill. He asked whether SARs will be prioritised as major and trivial. Reform of the SARs regime is a crucial part of the Government’s Action Plan for Anti-money Laundering and Counter-terrorist Finance. We have established a programme to reform the SARs regime, working collaboratively with partners in line with commitments published in that plan. The Government are seeking improvements in the short, medium and long term, and the legislative elements in the Bill are only one element of the wider reform that is required. During the review of the SARs regime that the Home Office ran in 2015, a number of regulated-sector companies suggested that suspicious activity reports should be prioritised. We will consider this as part of the SARs reform programme.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, suggested that the anti-money laundering regime is confused and ineffective and asked what HMG are doing to reform the 27 supervisory bodies. The Government consulted on reforms to the anti-money laundering supervisory regime in the autumn and have considered the responses. The Treasury intends to publish the outcome of that review in the coming weeks in order to ensure the most effective possible supervision of the regulated sector.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, talked about whistleblower protection.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Portrait Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts
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My Lords, does that mean that the results of the consultation will be available in time for Committee? What was discovered as a result of that consultation will inform our debate on money laundering in a very important way.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I can find out and let my noble friend know. I did say a matter of weeks, so we may be in luck.

Protection for whistleblowers under the Employment Rights Act 1996 means that dismissal for whistleblowing is automatically unfair. BEIS is reviewing legislative provisions around protecting whistleblowers in the workplace and will make recommendations on how we might strengthen them.

My noble friend Lord Faulks and another noble Lord referred to the Observer article about individuals using the tax on enveloped properties and asked what was to become of that. We are providing new investigate powers, including UWOs, which will make it easier for our law enforcement agencies to investigate money laundering in the London property market and recover the proceeds of crime. However, the issue will not be solved by law enforcement action alone. We need to ensure that lawyers, estate agents and other professions, as many noble Lords have mentioned, are complying with their obligations under the Money Laundering Regulations. To that end, the Treasury has launched a review of the anti-money laundering supervisory regime and will publish the findings imminently.

In addition, the Government intend to publish a call for evidence, seeking views on a new register of overseas companies that own property in the UK. We hope to do so shortly and will then introduce the relevant legislation when parliamentary time allows.

Lord Rookie—sorry, I mean the noble Lord, Lord Rooker; I do not know why I called him “rookie”—talked about the Government ensuring that the Magnitsky power will be used. The expansion of the civil recovery regime is a significant step and adds to the suite of powers available to UK law enforcement agencies, including the NCA, to combat money laundering and other serious crime. Ultimately, it will be a matter for the agencies to decide which powers are justified on a case-by-case basis, but the use of this power will be subject to the relevant safeguards in Part 5 of POCA. In particular, law enforcement agencies will need to be satisfied and have the evidence required to satisfy a court on the balance of probabilities that property in the UK is the proceeds of gross human rights abuses or violations overseas.

The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, talked about fines on banks in the UK. He raised the issue of banks in the UK not being penalised for laundering funds from overseas. I have a huge list of fines, which I will not read out today, because it would take up valuable time in responding to the noble Lord’s point, but I will send it to him and other noble Lords and place a copy in the Library.

My noble friend Lord Faulks asked about deferred prosecution agreements in the Bribery Act, and I thank him for his words on DPAs. I agree that they are a very useful tool that encourages companies to engage with law enforcement and self-report wrongdoing. It is used effectively for bribery overseas, for example, in the case of Rolls-Royce, and it will be useful in bringing new offences under Part 3.

The noble Lord, Lord Flight, asked what the Home Office is doing to improve asset recovery and said that not enough is being recovered. More assets have been recovered under this Government than ever before. In 2015-16, we recovered more than £255 million-worth of criminal assets using the POCA powers. We have delivered our 2015 manifesto commitment to return a greater share of recovered assets to the police. When performance exceeds the baseline set in 2015-16, additional receipts will be invested in the regional asset recovery teams, which I think is the right way. The 50% share of recovered moneys that are already invested, including in local police forces, will be unaffected.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford talked about the large proportion of African wealth invested in tax havens. The UK is working precisely on that to bring corrupt leaders to justice and recover the assets that they have stolen, quite often from their own people, as the right reverend Prelate said.

In 2014-15, DfID’s gross losses to fraud and corruption were approximately £2.3 million, recoveries were £1.5 million and the net loss was therefore £750,000, which is a recovery rate of 67%.

The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, asked about procurement, particularly in the public sector. HMG are acutely aware of the risks that central and local government face, and that is why procurement is one of the priorities in the forthcoming anti-corruption strategy. He and other noble Lords have praised my right honourable friend in the other place, Sir Eric Pickles, and I join them in that praise.

The noble Lord, Lord Flight, and other noble Lords made a point about domestic PEPs. According to the Financial Action Task Force and EU law, politically exposed persons must be subject to some sort of enhanced due diligence in recognition of their influence, their authority and their prominence in public life. Our view is that banks should take a proportionate and sensible approach to know-your-customer measures for Members of Parliament, Peers and other UK PEPs. I fully accept, because I have heard various anecdotal evidence, that perhaps this is not being consistently applied across the piece.

I hope noble Lords will indulge me for one more minute, because I have quite a few things to get through. The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, asked when UWOs will take effect and when the code of practice will be available. At the earliest opportunity is the answer to that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, made a very good point about company director disqualification. Where a director is convicted, they can be disqualified as part of their sentence. Where a company is convicted of a Part 3 offence and the director is not party to that, fairness requires a separate hearing of application to disqualify. Where a director of a corporation is implicated in wrongdoing, they can be subject to prosecution. If their actions amount to criminality or facilitating tax evasion where their actions fall short of being criminal, investigators can already investigate whether they are fit and proper to continue to hold the position of a company director and report their findings to the Secretary of State.

I realise that I am well over my time and will have to write to noble Lords, as I still have a wad of answers here. I finish by again thanking noble Lords for what has been a very enjoyable debate.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Criminal Finances Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Criminal Finances Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 28th March 2017

(7 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Criminal Finances Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 104-I Marshalled list for Committee (PDF, 179KB) - (24 Mar 2017)
Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab)
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My Lords, the Bill was welcomed by all sides of the House at Second Reading. Unexplained wealth orders are a device to give law enforcement agencies powers to require a person suspected of involvement in or association with serious criminality to explain the origin or source of assets which appear disproportionate to their income.

Amendment 1, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, seeks to insert the words, “beyond reasonable doubt” after the word “satisfied”, when requiring a person to comply with an order. This raises an important point, but I am not convinced that introducing this higher test is needed here. It would make it more difficult for law enforcement agencies to get permission to seek the source of the wealth which has led them to suspect that the person’s lawfully obtained income would be insufficient for the purposes of obtaining their assets. I agree with the remarks made about this amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, who said that the higher evidential test would not be welcome in this regard. I also agree with the comments made by the noble and learned Lords, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood and Lord Phillips. I also agree with the comments by the noble Lord, Lord Blair of Boughton, on the investigatory role—the test and procedure would be difficult there as well.

Amendments 2 and 7, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, give a better definition in relation to a person’s connection to a property, and the Government should reflect carefully on this during the passage of the Bill and possibly bring an amendment forward on Report.

Amendment 5, also in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, would provide an additional power to require a person to answer questions under oath. Again, that seems a reasonable additional power to take, which could be used at the discretion of the court. I very much take the point that the noble Lord made about the William Hill defence in terms of how one acquires assets and wealth. We need to look at that important point.

On Amendments 8 and 9, I thought that the £100,000 value in respect of a property was about right, that the £50,000 figure proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, was too low, and that the figure proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, was far too high. However, having sought advice from law enforcement agencies, I understand the motivation behind the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, and I am content that the figure she proposes may well be right.

There is a whole series of government amendments in this group which I am content with, as they seek to prevent a person subject to one of these orders seeking to circumvent it through complicated financial means and transactions.

This has been a very useful debate, with some well-informed contributions that posed a number of questions for the noble Baroness. I am sure that she will reflect on those as we may want to come back to some of those points on Report.

The noble Lord, Lord Leigh of Hurley, made important points about property and the problems associated with it. I think that we shall debate an amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, in the next group which concerns property.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this excellent debate. We have had some very good contributions from noble Lords from around the Committee on the significant new powers of the unexplained wealth order. I will do my best to respond to all the points that were made. I apologise in advance if I take some time to do so.

As noble Lords will know, the measures in this Bill are largely focused on serious and organised crime, but it also provides important new powers to tackle terrorist financing. Last week’s horrific attack reminds us all of the very real nature of this threat. I would like to take a moment to pause and think about the families of those who have been killed and those who still lie injured in hospital. I again pay tribute to the men and women of the police and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies who are so committed to keeping us safe—to PC Keith Palmer, but also to his many colleagues who work in Parliament and across the country. We must ensure that they have the powers they need to investigate and disrupt terrorists and terrorist groups. The powers in Part 2 of the Bill, which we will come to later, will do just that.

I return to the amendments in this group on unexplained wealth orders—or UWOs. The UK is a world leader in the fight against global corruption and the UWO is a substantial new power that will assist UK law enforcement agencies to do so. I welcome the continued cross-party support for these measures. I remind noble Lords that a UWO is a court order that requires a person to provide information which shows that they obtained identified property legitimately. If the person provides information in response to a UWO, the enforcement authority can then decide whether to investigate further, take recovery action under POCA or, if they are satisfied, take no further action. If the person does not comply with a UWO, either by not responding or not responding fully to the terms of the order, the property identified in the order is presumed to be recoverable under any subsequent civil recovery proceedings.

There are a number of government amendments in this group and I turn to them first. These are, by and large, technical changes to the provisions to help them function most effectively, but I will highlight a few for the benefit of noble Lords. As regards trusts, we have tabled government Amendments 3, 4, 6, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 30 to 32, 36, 38 to 40, 52, 53, 174 and 175. Perhaps the biggest addition to the provisions made by the government amendments are the measures to ensure that a UWO can be served in situations where property of interest is held in trust or involves corporate structures. This, I believe, picks up some of the concerns raised by my noble friend Lord Faulks. The amendments will also allow subsequent UWOs to be obtained on additional individuals such as trustees in complex cases where this is necessary. The amendments are not a silver bullet in cases where trusts and corporate entities are involved. However, they are a significant improvement and will close a potential gap.

UWO thresholds are addressed by government Amendments 8 and 33, which would reduce the threshold for a UWO to be obtained from £100,000 to £50,000. Noble Lords rightly questioned how we settled on the balance. It followed representations from authorities in Scotland—including from the SNP during Commons consideration of the Bill—and Northern Ireland. It reflects the fact that the higher threshold could disadvantage law enforcement agencies in certain parts of the country where financial returns may not be as high or may be spread more evenly across criminal groups, and where property, in particular, has a lower value.

The threshold, however, is still an important safeguard, together with the other qualifying criteria that must be met before a UWO can be made by the court. It remains our view that the orders should be used in the most complex cases, where obtaining evidence has proved difficult, and this will be reflected in the supporting guidance.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, tabled a related amendment to push the threshold up rather than down. She helped us to reflect on the balance that must be struck in circumscribing the new power. However, based on our consultation with law enforcement agencies, I suggest that her proposed threshold of £500,000 would be prohibitive. It would stop the agencies using this power in significant cases involving serious and organised crime, and noble Lords have been clear that they want to see the most effective use of UWOs. I hope that the noble Baroness will be satisfied that our approach strikes the appropriate balance.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee
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I could repeat my question about the temptation to get at the low-hanging fruit and not use the orders to deal with grand corruption, as I understand it.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Baroness is right that both ends of the scale should be tackled, so I hope that law enforcement agencies will use the orders in a proportionate way to tackle criminal activity at both ends of the scale. I hope that that will satisfy the noble Baroness. She looks satisfied.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks
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When questions were raised at Second Reading about the scope of the orders and how many might be issued, I referred to an assessment that was provided—with some difficulty—by the Government that only about 20 might be sought during the year. The Minister understandably said that that was only an estimate, based on general experience of civil recovery. However, does it not indicate that, rather than grasping low-hanging fruit, if anything this will be considerably resource-heavy and will probably be directed only at cases where the amount of wealth is significant enough to make the expenditure of time and money worth while?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My noble friend and the noble Baroness have made the case for both ends of the threshold. My noble friend talked about resources generally. One thing that came from the law enforcement agencies was that the issue was not resources but the tools to be able to tackle criminals. Also, law enforcement agencies do benefit from a proportion of the money recovered, so they are incentivised at both ends of the scale—and it will be up to legislators in this House and the other place to decide on the right balance to strike. But that was our rationale for the lower amount—and I know that the Government originally suggested £100,000.

The point about compensation is covered in government Amendments 28 and 56, and Amendments 29 and 57, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Amendments 28 and 56 introduce a compensation scheme in relation to the interim freezing orders that can support a UWO. Other powers to freeze property in POCA have connected compensation provisions. It is absolutely right that a person who has genuinely suffered a loss should have the ability to seek compensation where there has been serious default on the part of the enforcement agency. The “serious default” test is already used in POCA and is applicable here too. I hope that on that basis, the noble Baroness will agree that her amendments probably are superfluous in this instance.

Lord Thomas of Gresford Portrait Lord Thomas of Gresford (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In support of my noble friend, the experience of POCA has been that the amount recovered has been very little more than the cost, so that the question of resources is very germane. In practice, both sides are anxious to come to an agreement early on to avoid the expense of a lengthy hearing, never mind the lengthy investigation. Therefore, setting the level at a high point is a very sensible thing to do and will ensure that resources are properly used.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - -

Is the noble Lord talking about the high point with regard to the UWO triggering point? The Government have considered all options; they have suggested £100,000. The point was made that £50,000 was more appropriate, particularly in some of the devolved Administration areas, where property prices are generally lower, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has made an argument for setting the bar higher. However, my noble friend also made the point that by setting the bar lower we might end up having more success, reaching not only the low-hanging fruit but the high-hanging fruit as well. I therefore hope that the noble Lord accepts that explanation. It is an objective consideration, but there are obviously many views about where the threshold should be set.

On Amendments 2, 5, 7, 16 and 18, tabled by my noble friend Lord Faulks, Amendments 2 and 7 seek to replace the term “holds” with “has a financial interest in” as the test for the High Court to consider. It is only fair that in serving a UWO the respondent must have some direct connection with the property that is of interest. “Holds” is a well-established concept in civil law, including in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and we believe that requiring a person to “hold” property is a proportionate approach. It is also our view that “holding” property includes holding an interest in that property. I hope that noble Lords are reassured by that assessment.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister. I thought that the answer to this point was provided by the Government’s Amendment 21, therefore there is no need to refer to the provisions of POCA, because there is an internal reference to what “holding” means.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - -

That is correct, but I thought I might go through it. I am just being thorough.

Amendment 5 seeks to add the ability to interview a person “under oath” as a possible requirement of a UWO. It would already be a criminal offence for the respondent to knowingly or recklessly provide false or misleading information. We must also remember that this is only an investigative power; if the case leads to criminal proceedings, it would be subject to the usual rules of giving evidence and allow for interviews “under caution”.

Amendments 16 and 18 address the issue of “purported compliance”. If a person does not comply with a UWO, their property is presumed to be recoverable under civil recovery proceedings. Given the severe consequences of not complying, it is right that this rebuttable presumption should not apply to a person who purports to provide a response. This avoids any legal ambiguity as to when the presumption will apply. However, where that individual provides responses that do not satisfy the enforcement agency, he or she then runs the risk that the poor quality of the responses will encourage the agency to take further action, and in those circumstances the burden of proof switches back to law enforcement, as is normal.

Purported compliance applies to a scenario where all the requirements of a UWO have been met but where the response is less than satisfactory. The agency is able to tailor the request for information very specifically, so will have some control over this. We do not want to get into arguments before the courts as to whether the presumption should apply and whether the individual has complied.

Finally, the UWO provisions will allow the enforcement authority to make very specific requests for information, reducing the risk of a low-value response being provided. I hope that my noble friend will feel that this addresses the point he has so expertly raised. He also raised a point about gambling. With regard to the Ladbrokes test or the William Hill defence, we would expect a high level of evidence to prove that, and we would expect it to meet the requirements of the UWO. The UWO will have achieved its purpose by flushing out information.

My noble friend also asked whether we would publish the code of practice before Report. The answer is yes. I undertook to discuss publication of the update to the relevant code of practice with my officials and ministerial colleagues, and it is my intention that the draft code will be available to noble Lords prior to Report.

I now turn to Amendment 1, moved by my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts. This would require the High Court to be satisfied “beyond reasonable doubt” with regard to each of the requirements before issuing a UWO. This is an investigative power, as the noble Lord, Lord Blair, said, so the test of “reasonable suspicion” is quite normal and consistent with existing law, including Part 8 of POCA. The balance of probabilities applies here, as the noble Lord, Lord Blair, and my noble friend Lord Faulks said, and I hope that my noble friend will agree that it would not be appropriate to impose a criminal law standard in such cases.

My noble friend Lord Hodgson asked about the reversal of the burden of proof. We accept that there is a reversal of the burden of proof but it is in very specific and narrow circumstances. There has to be a link to a PEP or a serious criminal. This is a proportionate use of operational need. As an investigation power, there is the opportunity to address this issue in any subsequent proceedings. As my noble friend said, Transparency International has approved this approach.

My noble friend also asked about the use of legal advisers if a client is subject to a UWO, but we do not consider that an amendment is required to the laws on legal privilege. The lawyer role is unchanged, and the lawyer has the same responsibility to file a SAR if he has a relevant suspicion. It will be a question of the facts in each case.

I now turn to Amendments 10, 13, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 35 and 37, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey. I think that these broadly separate out into two topics: first, the application of UWOs to PEPs, and, secondly, the court process in Northern Ireland. UWOs can be made either where there is suspicion of involvement in serious crime or in relation to non-EEA politically exposed persons. In that sense, I want to make it clear that politicians and senior officials in the UK and the EEA are covered by the first element of this power where they are suspected of being involved in serious criminality.

The reason for the second limb is to plug a gap experienced by law enforcement agencies when they investigate politically exposed persons. The issue arises in cases where critical evidence is available only in the PEP’s home country, which lacks the capabilities necessary to gather it itself. Conversely, in relation to UK PEPs and those across the European Economic Area, if the evidence exists it will be obtainable, so the same issues do not arise. There is no gap in these cases. That means it should be possible to evidence suspicion of involvement in serious crime.

On the noble Lord’s point about the FCA guidelines, these relate to the regulatory obligations of banks and other institutions. UWOs are not to do with the regulatory burden and responsibilities of the financial industry, so reference to the FCA is not strictly relevant here.

On increasing the sentence on summary conviction in Northern Ireland to 12 months, the current provisions reflect the approach taken to sentencing for other “either way” offences in the Bill, and which also correspond to offences in POCA already. The 12-month point for England and Wales arises from an amendment to the approach to sentencing in the magistrates’ courts which derives from Sections 281 and 282 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. Those amendments did not extend to Northern Ireland. In relation to the ability to make rules of court and other procedures in the High Court, including the variation or discharge of a UWO, specific provisions are not required in the Bill for England and Wales. However, express provision is required for the High Court in Northern Ireland to put them on the same footing.

The noble Lord also asked about Scotland. There is a constitutional division of powers between Scottish Ministers and the Lord Advocate, which is obviously specific to Scotland. We need to be certain that there is an ability of the Scottish Minister to disclose information onwards. The provisions presume that if a response is made to a UWO, this information could be disclosed onwards for consideration of a criminal investigation and/or prosecution. Therefore, in the Scottish context, Scottish Ministers apply for UWOs so that they will receive any information in response to such. If they consider that this information suggests that a criminal investigation and proceeding may be appropriate, they would need to refer the material to the Lord Advocate. The amendments provide that Scottish Ministers can disclose the information to the Lord Advocate for this very purpose. They also make certain that there is no suggestion that Scottish Ministers are tasking the Lord Advocate, merely that the material can be referred for independent consideration by the Lord Advocate. That is important due to the constitutional structure in Scotland.

Amendment 24 provides for any person affected by a UWO to apply for its variation or discharge, and not just the applicant and respondent. As a specifically focused investigation order, only the applicant and respondent are directly affected by the UWO. This is because the UWO requires the respondent to provide information, but does not itself affect any other interests in the property.

Finally, we reach the other amendments from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Amendments 26 and 54 would provide that the application to freeze property need not be made at the same time as the application for a UWO. It is right that all matters relating to the person and property should be dealt with in one hearing. This also gives certainty to the respondent. Should the enforcement agency wish to freeze the property at any other time, it will be able to do so under the main freezing order provisions in POCA, provided that the relevant test can be met.

With reference to UWOs, the noble Baroness asked about the need for the ownership register. Open source material that already exists can be of assistance; for example, the Land Registry, public accounts and records at Companies House. Other countries may already have public registers of ownership and income. In these circumstances, our law enforcement agencies would have access to them. We should also note that the UK has public registers of beneficial ownership.

I turn finally to the point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood. He talked about altering the threshold but still having the safeguards. On the threshold, it must be remembered that the High Court has to be satisfied that there is still a link to serious crime or that someone is a PEP. That is a significant test. It focuses the use of the power in relation to the amount, and that is dropped by our amendments. The court has to show not only the value of the property but that the respondent does not have any obvious legitimate income.

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Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, on that last point, I was not clear whether the Minister was saying that defendants’ living expenses were covered or not. I would be happy to discuss that with her after today. I raised it because I was aware that they are specifically referred to in other legislation.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Baroness is right: they are provided for because they are in line with existing powers in POCA.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister said that it would be right to have everything dealt with in the same hearing. I questioned whether “proceedings” meant “hearing” because to me they are not the same thing. Did the Minister say “hearing”? That might require a tweak.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I did say “hearing”.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Portrait Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we began with my modest amendment an hour and 40 minutes ago, and we have obviously ranged pretty widely. That is not surprising with nearly 60 amendments in this group. I asked in my opening remarks for reassurance that the government amendment,

“that there is reasonable cause to believe”,

provided adequate protection and we did not need “beyond reasonable doubt”. I asked for more experienced legal expertise than I have to provide me with that reassurance. I got not one but two noble and learned Lords to provide that in the shape of the noble and learned Lords, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood and Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, for which I am very grateful.

I was slightly surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Blair, was dismissive of what I put in my amendment but will, I imagine, accept government Amendment 6, which provides a slightly lower level of inhibition to police activity, but that is as it may be. I was grateful to my noble friend on the Front Bench for her reassurance that there was no change to the issue of legal privilege. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
3: Clause 1, page 2, line 10, at end insert—
“(c) where the property is held by the trustees of a settlement, setting out such details of the settlement as may be specified in the order, and(d) setting out such other information in connection with the property as may be so specified.”
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Moved by
6: Clause 1, page 2, line 35, after “satisfied” insert “that there is reasonable cause to believe”
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Moved by
8: Clause 1, page 2, line 37, leave out “£100,000” and insert “£50,000”
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - -

I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. I am grateful for their contributions. As we have already covered, the court may issue a UWO in cases where either there is a link to serious criminality or the respondent is a politically exposed person from outside the European Economic Area. Amendment 11 seeks to add a third limb to those covered by UWOs. This amendment would mean that a UWO could also be served on a person who has a financial interest in land or property which is registered in the name of an overseas company. This would be quite a significant step, and I encourage noble Lords to consider it carefully. The UWO has been specifically designed as a reaction to the real operational difficulties that law enforcement agencies have had in individual cases.

First, there are those who are known to have a link to serious criminality, such as there being known links to organised criminal groups. The senior criminal, if I can call them that, is often able to keep themselves distant from any actual individual instance of criminality. The UWO will force them to explain their wealth. Secondly, there are non-EEA PEPs. PEPs are targeted in this way because they are widely acknowledged to be a high corruption risk. The ability to get evidence from certain countries—

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hesitate to intervene, but this is a point of general relevance to the Bill. The Minister referred to us being a member of the European Economic Area. I take it that nothing will happen to this Bill when it goes on to the statute book, but this question is germane and substantive. The Bill refers to the European Economic Area, of which we are a member. Would we require legislation to stop being a member? Does that bear on the substantive issues in the Bill?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I do not entirely understand what the noble Lord said.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister make sure that this question is looked at? Otherwise, we will have on the statute book something that depends upon us being a member of the European Economic Area.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I am much clearer about this. Obviously negotiations will be conducted as the Brexit negotiations go on. I did a debate the other week about the co-operation around law enforcement; we are absolutely committed to continue that co-operation—if that gives comfort to the noble Lord—in fighting crime, corruption, fraud, slavery, people trafficking and all that sort of thing. We are a world leader at this point in time.

I did not initially get where the noble Lord was coming from, so I apologise. I was talking about the non-EEA PEPs—those outside the European Economic Area at the moment—who are targeted in this way because they are widely acknowledged to be a high corruption risk. The inability to get evidence from certain countries has rendered action against those persons almost impossible in some cases, even though they have obvious unexplained wealth and there are other suspicions relating to them. In both cases, there are clear reasons to justify the use of this novel investigative power. Based on clear evidence, we judge it to be proportionate in these cases to reverse the burden of proof, which is a major departure from the normal operation of our law, and to put their property at risk of recovery purely on the basis that they do not respond to a UWO.

I fully recognise that those in the third grouping proposed by noble Lords—those with a financial interest in property owned by an overseas company—have given rise to concerns relating to corruption. However, very importantly, it must be remembered that the vast majority of people with a financial interest in an overseas company are law-abiding. Many of them are British citizens, for whom there will, if relevant, be other avenues to progress an investigation. I am not satisfied that the situation relating to this third suggested group of persons is so stark, or that a real operational need has been identified. As I said earlier, there is nothing inherently suspicious about having a financial interest in an overseas company.

Despite that, I take on board the points that noble Lords have made and am very grateful for the amendment, which highlights a very important area. My officials will, of course, liaise with law enforcement colleagues to ensure that they have the tools that they need to investigate cases of this type, but I assure noble Lords that they have not indicated a gap in their existing powers that would justify extending UWOs in the way that is proposed.

I will go through some other points that noble Lords have made. My noble friend Lord Faulks—I thought he was noble and learned, and it has quite shattered my illusions to learn that he is not—talked about the “envelope tax”, which he also brought up at Second Reading. I undertake to discuss it with colleagues at the Treasury and come back with a response, either on Report or by letter to him. He also talked about UWOs and the London property market, and what they will do to help with empty properties—which I see every night on my way back to my small flat in north London. In terms of how a UWO will be used against property held by foreign companies, it must be noted that the UWO provisions can be used against legal persons—companies—wherever they are located, subject to international law on service. In addition, it will be possible to focus on the individual if he holds an interest. Our new amendments will mean that foreign-owned property is not excluded from the UWO provisions.

My noble friend also talked about the supervisory regime and the obligations of regulated bodies with respect to the London property market. The Government consulted on reforms to the anti-money laundering supervisory regime in the autumn and have considered the responses. The Treasury published the outcome of that review on 22 March and is currently conducting further consultation on the creation of a new office for professional body anti-money laundering supervision, which will be overseen by the FCA and is expected to be fully operational by the start of 2018.

The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, asked about the latest available data on prosecutions, convictions and sentencing, broken down by offence from 2015. In 2015, 2,307 defendants were proceeded against for money laundering offences in the magistrates’ court; 1,336 defendants were found guilty at all courts for money laundering offences; and 1,300 were sentenced. Where a bank’s anti-money laundering regime is found to have failed, significant fines can be, and have been, applied. I think that is the chart that he was referring to. Banks are also required to fix their regimes, and banks operating in the UK have been fined for failures in their anti-money laundering regimes.

Lord Rooker Portrait Lord Rooker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister is missing the point, although I am sure she is not doing so deliberately. No bank has been prosecuted. That is the background to the question I asked. I did not ask about cosy deals with the Financial Conduct Authority—like those reported today with Tesco and the one with Rolls-Royce, which I referred to at Second Reading—to have deferred prosecutions, so that they pay but do not get prosecuted. I asked about banks being prosecuted. The one way to stop or curtail this, as the noble Lord, Lord Deben, said, is to get them where it hurts, not with cosy deals. These fines are not the result of prosecutions. If she is implying that, she is wrong, and is close to misleading the Committee. I am not asking about deals; I am asking about prosecutions which take place in court, not through cosy deals and a fine from the Financial Conduct Authority.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I hope the noble Lord does not think that I have ever tried to mislead the House. I talked about fines, but where a bank was found to have committed a criminal offence, a prosecution could be undertaken. Investigations and prosecutions are a matter for law enforcement agencies and prosecutors. I take the point that he is making, but this is open to law enforcement. Last month, a £163 million fine was issued to Deutsche Bank, and I would suggest that hitting them where it hurts probably involves hitting them in their pockets. It is open to law enforcement to prosecute banks, but I take the noble Lord’s point in that, today, I know of no prosecutions of banks. But the fines regime is in place.

I am very grateful for the amendment but hope that my noble friend has been assured that there is not a gap in existing powers that would justify extending UWOs in the way proposed. I hope he will feel content to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who took part in the debate and for the general support for what lay behind this amendment, which is a widespread concern about the London property market in particular and the degree to which it is clear that corrupt money has entered it. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, made a number of important points—particularly that I am not learned. He was also correct to say that the word “or” was missing from the amendment, and made some other drafting suggestions. He was also right to suggest that this is not a panacea, but it was not designed to be. The amendment was intended to provoke the sort of debate we have had and to ask the Government whether they are truly satisfied that the evil we have identified is being answered, and in particular whether anything in the Bill can be used to deal with the problem.

My noble friend the Minister has said that the provision covers those who are PEPs within the definition of the Bill or those suspected of serious criminality. But what, I ask, about those who may not easily be defined as being “suspected of serious criminality” but are in fact gangsters? What of those who have high office but do not come within the definition of PEPs? With many of the properties, it will be difficult to determine precisely who owns them. All that we ask for is an unexplained wealth order—it is not a criminal offence; it is a civil procedure which results, if there is no adequate explanation, in civil recovery. That, I suggest, will help deter the incursion of corrupt money. The provisions contain safeguards on self-incrimination and compensation. Let us not be too pusillanimous about this. My noble friend said that she had received my request for information about the envelope tax at Second Reading and she has again, but she has not yet replied. On the face of it, that is in stark contradiction to the policy that underlies the UWOs.

We will miss a legislative opportunity if we do not do something through the Bill to sort out the problem we have identified. I hope that my noble friend will speak to her officials and be satisfied that there is no gap, no lacuna, in this approach.

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Moved by
12: Clause 1, page 3, line 23, at end insert—
“(e) where the property is an interest in other property comprised in a settlement, the reference to the respondent obtaining the property is to be taken as if it were a reference to the respondent obtaining direct ownership of such share in the settled property as relates to, or is fairly represented by, that interest.”
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Moved by
14: Clause 1, page 3, line 30, at end insert—
“(d) otherwise connected with a person within that paragraph.”
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Moved by
17: Clause 1, page 4, line 29, at end insert—
“(5A) Subsections (5B) and (5C) apply in determining the respondent’s interest for the purposes of subsection (3) in a case where the respondent to the unexplained wealth order—(a) is connected with another person who is, or has been, involved in serious crime (see subsection (4)(b)(ii) of section 362B), or(b) is a politically exposed person of a kind mentioned in paragraph (b), (c) or (d) of subsection (7) of that section (family member, known close associates etc of individual entrusted with prominent public functions).(5B) In a case within subsection (5A)(a), the respondent’s interest is to be taken to include any interest in the property of the person involved in serious crime with whom the respondent is connected.(5C) In a case within subsection (5A)(b), the respondent’s interest is to be taken to include any interest in the property of the person mentioned in subsection (7)(a) of section 362B.”
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Moved by
19: Clause 1, page 5, line 35, leave out “other provisions of”
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Moved by
21: Clause 1, page 7, line 1, at end insert—
“362GA Holding of property: trusts arrangements etc(1) This section applies for the purposes of sections 362A and 362B.(2) The cases in which a person (P) is to be taken to “hold” property include those where—(a) P has effective control over the property;(b) P is the trustee of a settlement in which the property is comprised;(c) P is a beneficiary (whether actual or potential) in relation to such a settlement.(3) A person is to be taken to have “effective control” over property if, from all the circumstances, it is reasonable to conclude that the person— (a) exercises,(b) is able to exercise, or(c) is entitled to acquire,direct or indirect control over the property.(4) Where a person holds property by virtue of subsection (2) references to the person obtaining the property are to be read accordingly.(5) For further provision about how to construe references to the holding of property, see section 414.”
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Moved by
28: Clause 2, page 12, line 34, at end insert—
“362PA Compensation(1) Where an interim freezing order in respect of any property is discharged, the person to whom the property belongs may make an application to the High Court for the payment of compensation.(2) The application must be made within the period of three months beginning with the discharge of the interim freezing order.(3) The court may order compensation to be paid to the applicant only if satisfied that—(a) the applicant has suffered loss as a result of the making of the interim freezing order,(b) there has been a serious default on the part of the enforcement authority that applied for the order, and(c) the order would not have been made had the default not occurred.(4) Where the court orders the payment of compensation—(a) the compensation is payable by the enforcement authority that applied for the interim freezing order, and(b) the amount of compensation to be paid is the amount that the court thinks reasonable, having regard to the loss suffered and any other relevant circumstances.”
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Moved by
30: Clause 4, page 14, line 15, at end insert—
“(c) where the property is held by the trustees of a settlement, setting out such details of the settlement as may be specified in the order, and (d) setting out such other information in connection with the property as may be so specified.”
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Moved by
36: Clause 4, page 15, line 20, at end insert—
“( ) where the property is an interest in other property comprised in a settlement, the reference to the respondent obtaining the property is to be taken as if it were a reference to the respondent obtaining direct ownership of such share in the settled property as relates to, or is fairly represented by, that interest.”
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Moved by
38: Clause 4, page 15, line 27, at end insert—
“(d) otherwise connected with a person within that paragraph.”
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Moved by
56: Clause 5, page 24, line 32, at end insert—
“396QA Compensation(1) Where an interim freezing order in respect of any property is recalled, the person to whom the property belongs may make an application to the Court of Session for the payment of compensation.(2) The application must be made within the period of three months beginning with the recall of the interim freezing order.(3) The court may order compensation to be paid to the applicant only if satisfied that—(a) the applicant has suffered loss as a result of the making of the interim freezing order,(b) there has been a serious default on the part of the Scottish Ministers in applying for the order, and(c) the order would not have been made had the default not occurred.(4) Where the court orders the payment of compensation—(a) the compensation is payable by the Scottish Ministers, and(b) the amount of compensation to be paid is the amount that the court thinks reasonable, having regard to the loss suffered and any other relevant circumstances.”
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Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Portrait Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I support Amendment 72, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. It has been common ground in our discussions this evening that the volume of SARs is rising all the time. There are now over 1,500 a working day and it slightly defies belief that those are all getting anything like the attention that they should. Those of us who have had experience of this find that the National Crime Agency is extremely reluctant to allow any inhibition on its ability to call for SARs at every level. It should be possible to have discussions about automatically asking for a time limit—not that the information could not be asked for subsequently—of 25 or 50 years. One of my most recent PEP inquiries involved events 53 years ago. I simply cannot believe that collecting that sort of information is a good use of my time or the bank’s. There would be a great deal of virtue in my noble friend trying to persuade the NCA that some focus was a good idea. Getting the focus that is badly needed, and things like time and a de minimis figure, would make the whole system much more effective. The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, is a first step towards that and is worthy of serious consideration.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - -

My Lords, these amendments cover measures in Chapter 2 of Part 1 of the Bill. I thank noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. As the Action Plan for Anti-money Laundering and Counter-terrorist Finance set out, the Government see public/private partnership as central to tackling money laundering and terrorist financing. A major part of this approach is to provide support for the effective exchange of information, both within the private sector, and between the public and private sectors, to increase our collective knowledge of threats and vulnerabilities; to help the regulated sector to protect itself, and to improve the quality of the UK’s financial intelligence. The provisions in Chapter 2 assist this approach, and our amendments will enhance their ability to do so.

I hope noble Lords will agree that the government amendments in this group are technical and uncontroversial. Clause 11 permits the UK Financial Intelligence Unit—or UKFIU—hosted in the National Crime Agency, to request further information in relation to a suspicious activity report, or following a request from a foreign authority, from any member of the regulated sector. Clause 35 allows the police to do the same in relation to terrorist finance. At present, the clause will allow the NCA and police to direct that further information is provided through issuing a further information notice. If the information is not provided in accordance with the direction, the NCA will be able to apply to a court for a further information order to require the person to provide the information requested. However, following further consultations with operational partners, we have concluded that a further information notice is not required, as the NCA can already request information to be provided voluntarily under existing powers. Government Amendments 64 to 69, 130 to 137 and 173 will therefore remove further information notices. If the regulated sector entity declines to provide information on a voluntary basis, the NCA or police can still apply to a magistrates’ court for a further information order.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is the noble Baroness satisfied that this matter has been dealt with as expeditiously as possible bearing in mind that the review was in 2015 and we now have a Bill in front of us to which the SARs regime is directly relevant? However, when we put forward proposals to try to make the regime more effective by prioritising matters, we were told that the Government were still considering the situation. The difficulties in finding space for legislation over the next couple of years have already been raised, so could the noble Baroness address that point and reflect further that we are four weeks away from Report? If the Government really put their mind to it, surely they could come forward with an amendment of their own on this issue.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I recognise that the issue was considered in 2015. It is now 2017. I totally take on board what the noble Lord says. This issue is complex but I will go back to the department to see what is in the art of the possible before Report. I cannot promise anything at this stage other than that I will try to expedite it if possible.

Prioritisation and the allocation of resources are operational matters. The NCA already has processes in place to take tasking decisions and allocate its resources. It is very unlikely that a SAR would be the only factor taken into account when deciding whether to open an investigation. Putting this matter into legislation could, if anything, impose additional restrictions on law enforcement agencies, which already have the type of flexibility to prioritise cases that the noble Lord’s amendment seeks to achieve.

I hope that he is at least partly satisfied with my explanation. I invite the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, as regards the bad things in subsection (5), I would feel more comfortable if these were a matter of discretion for the court. However, if a court has to be satisfied about something, the provision goes against my instincts—of course, I do not have the experience of other noble Lords in this area—as it would not be in a position to hear arguments on the other side. I specifically mentioned there being no alternative provisions because, in another part of the landscape, we are accustomed to there being special advocates, although that may not be a perfect system and I am not sure that I want to go down that route.

I will have to read the Minister’s response on legal professional privilege. It did not immediately answer my questions. Clearly, we are not going to make further progress on that today but it may well be something that I would like to come back to on Report, which, as I understand it from the provisional arrangements, will be very inconveniently held on the day after the day that we return from the Easter Recess. Therefore, I may disturb somebody’s holiday. I am sorry about that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
62: Clause 10, page 36, line 4, at end insert—
“(3A) Subsection (1) applies whether or not the conditions in section 339ZB were met in respect of the disclosure if the person making the disclosure did so in the reasonable belief that the conditions were met.”
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Moved by
64: Clause 11, page 37, line 4, leave out from beginning to end of line 35 on page 39 and insert—
“Further information orders339ZH Further information orders(1) A magistrates’ court or (in Scotland) the sheriff may, on an application made by a relevant person, make a further information order if satisfied that either condition 1 or condition 2 is met.(2) The application must—(a) specify or describe the information sought under the order, and(b) specify the person from whom the information is sought (“the respondent”).(3) A further information order is an order requiring the respondent to provide—(a) the information specified or described in the application for the order, or(b) such other information as the court or sheriff making the order thinks appropriate,so far as the information is in the possession, or under the control, of the respondent.(4) Condition 1 for the making of a further information order is met if—(a) the information required to be given under the order would relate to a matter arising from a disclosure made under this Part,(b) the respondent is the person who made the disclosure or is otherwise carrying on a business in the regulated sector,(c) the information would assist in investigating whether a person is engaged in money laundering or in determining whether an investigation of that kind should be started, and(d) it is reasonable in all the circumstances for the information to be provided.(5) Condition 2 for the making of a further information order is met if—(a) the information required to be given under the order would relate to a matter arising from a disclosure made under a corresponding disclosure requirement,(b) an external request has been made to the National Crime Agency for the provision of information in connection with that disclosure,(c) the respondent is carrying on a business in the regulated sector,(d) the information is likely to be of substantial value to the authority that made the external request in determining any matter in connection with the disclosure, and(e) it is reasonable in all the circumstances for the information to be provided.(6) For the purposes of subsection (5), “external request” means a request made by an authority of a foreign country which has responsibility in that country for carrying out investigations into whether a corresponding money laundering offence has been committed.(7) A further information order must specify—(a) how the information required under the order is to be provided, and(b) the date by which it is to be provided.”
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I conclude as I began. I wholeheartedly support attempts to root out and punish financial crime. However, we need to strip this system down and re-engineer and refocus it to ensure that it is properly effective. The present approach, which piles yet more regulatory responsibilities on a flawed system, is not working well enough.
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, the amendments in this group have raised some important points around regulation and supervision of the regulated sector. I am also pleased to able to update noble Lords on some of the recent developments in this area.

Amendment 108, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, would require the FCA to withhold a proportion of any discount to a penalty applied to a financial firm until that firm has completed any internal disciplinary actions agreed in the settlement. We agree with the principle that such firms should be held accountable for their actions, or lack of them. The Government already have in place, through the FCA, powers to increase a penalty that it would otherwise impose on a firm in light of a range of potentially aggravating factors, including,

“disciplinary action against staff involved”.

A firm that had, by the time the FCA imposed its relevant penalty, failed to take such appropriate action, could therefore already have that penalty increased as a result.

The Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 allows the FCA to impose requirements on such firms. If the FCA considers that a firm needs to take disciplinary action—if appropriate and following all due employment process—after a penalty is imposed, the FCA can require that the firm properly and fully considers doing so. If the firm then fails to do so, that would become misconduct in respect of which the FCA could, subject to all other relevant factors, impose an additional penalty. Therefore, we believe that we already have in place powers to take action in the way the proposed amendment suggests.

Lord Sharkey Portrait Lord Sharkey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister accept that there is a big difference between having the powers to do something in addition and having an automatic system of withholding, which makes it directly in the interests of the firms to take the action that they are supposed to take, rather than have the FCA make an assessment later and come back to discuss whether it ought to impose an additional penalty? One is automatic, giving an immediate incentive for the firms to do something, while the other requires additional supervision.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I take the noble Lord’s point that one is perhaps much simpler, but of course each case is different. One firm might be a lot more compliant and it might not take much effort; another might take a lot more effort. However, I take his point.

I move on to Amendments 126 and 127 in the name of my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts. These relate to the role of the NCA. The NCA leads, co-ordinates and supports the national law enforcement response to money laundering. The prosperity command of the NCA houses the UK Financial Intelligence Unit, or UKFIU, and receives suspicious activity reports, or SARs, from the regulated sector. The intelligence gathered from these is used to support investigations into both money laundering and the predicate offences.

The amendments seek to require the NCA to act in a regulatory manner by ensuring that the provisions of the Money Laundering Regulations, such as customer due diligence and monitoring of transactions, are implemented effectively, and to ensure that the NCA acts with regard to the principles of regulatory best practice. The NCA can and will act where there is criminal activity relating to money laundering. However, it does not have a regulatory remit, and to require it to have one would deflect it from its purpose of tackling serious and organised crime.

My noble friend also asked me for some figures on the moneys recovered. I can tell him that in 2015-16 £255 million was recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act, of which £208 million was in confiscation. However, I will write to him with further details on that.

Finally, I turn to Amendment 70, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and Amendment 73, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Portrait Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts
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I thought I heard the Minister say that the NCA is not a regulator, but I do not understand why it cannot abide by regulatory principles in executing its duty as an enforcer on money laundering regulations. I do not understand why the two are mutually exclusive. If I heard my noble friend aright, she appeared to say that it could not abide by regulatory principles because it is an enforcer.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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That is correct.

I now turn to Amendment 70, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and Amendment 73 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. I can update the Committee on the significant action that the Government are taking to improve the effectiveness of anti-money laundering regulation by strengthening the obligations on all supervisors through the new Money Laundering Regulations 2017. The Treasury published a consultation on these regulations shortly after Second Reading and it is open until 12 April.

The Government set out in a Treasury publication earlier this month their proposals for the new office for professional body anti-money laundering supervision. However, it would not be right for the Government simply to legislate without proper public consultation on the detail of this proposal, and I hope the noble Lord will recognise that that is the appropriate way forward.

We have also recognised the need for more co-ordination between regulators and supervisors of the regulated sector in relation to tackling money laundering. The new office for professional body anti-money laundering supervision will therefore work with professional bodies to help, and ensure, compliance with the regulations. The office will be hosted by the FCA and will liaise with other bodies across the regime to discuss and share best practice to help ensure consistent high standards across supervisors—especially where statutory and professional body anti-money laundering supervisors monitor the same sectors—and to strengthen collaboration between professional body anti-money laundering supervisors, statutory supervisors and law enforcement agencies.

The Government will consult on the draft regulations that will underpin the office over the summer, and they will be finalised and laid before Parliament in the autumn. The Government expect the office to be fully operational by the start of 2018.

The new arrangements will also support the enforcement capability of the supervisors. The supervisors can take a range of actions in relation to failings identified in the areas they supervise. Professional bodies have sanctions specific to their supervisory population—for example, the ability to expel firms from membership. The removal of professional accreditation in this way can incentivise compliance.

HMRC and the FCA have powers under the regulations to require information, enter and inspect premises, and administer monetary civil penalties to their supervised population. The UK is leading the way in improving transparency and accountability in anti-money laundering supervision by publishing an annual report on money laundering supervision on GOV.UK.

The Treasury’s annual report, which is now in its fifth year, sets out how the UK’s supervisors are contributing to the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. The most recent report shows that supervisors are increasingly focusing on educating businesses on how to meet their anti-money laundering obligations, and ensuring that systems and controls are effective and proportionate to the risks. The actions that supervisors are reporting help to ensure that the UK’s financial system is a hostile environment for illicit finance.

The report shows the positive collaboration between the Treasury and the supervisory authorities, which include the FCA, HMRC, the Gambling Commission and the professional bodies. As set out in the Government’s response to the review of the supervisory regime, the annual report will be strengthened with a new requirement for supervisors to provide relevant information to inform the annual report. This will be expanded to include two new questions on enforcement activity.

I hope that noble Lords will recognise and commend the considerable government activity in relation to the anti-money laundering regime. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

For clarification, the Minister referred to the Government’s intention to create a new office for professional body AML supervision, hosted by the FCA. If my memory serves me right, she said that it would be in existence in early 2018. That of course is still out for consultation, is it not? That is the document where responses were called for by 26 April. It may be that all the responses about the proposed body were negative, in which case presumably the Government may wish to think again. Does that mean that setting up this new office will not require any legislation and that there will not be a need for legislation, for example, to define its powers and responsibilities?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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It may be helpful to the noble Lord if I reiterate the point that I made. The Treasury published the outcome of the review on 22 March and is now conducting further consultation on the creation of the new body, which will be overseen by the FCA and will be up and running by the start of 2018.

On his question of whether legislation—secondary or otherwise—will be required, perhaps I may write to him. I think that it will be secondary legislation but I cannot be certain.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is the Minister saying that setting up a new body that will have powers over other bodies can be done through secondary legislation—by a statutory instrument?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I do not know, which is why I will write to the noble Lord, if he is happy with that.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That will be helpful. As I understood it, the proposal was for regulations, and the further consultation has a limited number of questions to flesh out the earlier work. The Minister obviously has some more information.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I have just had an answer from the Box. It will in fact be secondary legislation that is laid before Parliament.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, perhaps I should accept that it will be up to us to ensure that transparency and accountability are included in those regulations. I will set myself some more homework. I am grateful for the Minister’s responses. The story is obviously not ending here but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, raised the issue of whistleblowing in her contribution at Second Reading and now proposes this new clause today with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. As we have heard, it would establish an office of the whistleblower. The purpose would be to offer much-needed protection to whistleblowers who expose criminality, corruption, fraud and other illegal activity. The price that whistleblowers often pay for alerting the authorities to illegal and criminal activity is to lose their jobs and have their careers ruined and destroyed.

The noble Baroness is right to highlight that we need to do more to offer protection and compensation to people who come forward and alert the authorities to the illegal activity. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Phillips, supported action and I agree. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, that setting up an office may not be the right way to go about that. What is definitely needed is further protection in statute and regulation. It may not need an office to be established. I will be interested to hear the response from the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, to this amendment. I entirely accept that it is a probing amendment and I think that we should take the opportunity that this Bill affords us to do something to address the issue of whistleblowers and the precarious position that they can find themselves in, which the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, has highlighted to the House today. I accept that whistleblowing goes across a variety of sectors, but we are dealing with the financial services sector and this would be a good place to start.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for allowing us to debate this important issue. Whistleblowers play a valuable role in society by bringing wrongdoing to light that could otherwise go unchallenged. Individuals should be able to report malpractice in the workplace without fear of reprisal; and employers should be prepared to work with staff to resolve concerns, particularly by means of effective internal procedures.

The Employment Rights Act 1996, as amended by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and subsequently, provides employment protection for workers in all sectors who have blown the whistle. It enables them to seek redress if they are dismissed or suffer detriment at the hands of the employer because they have made a “protected disclosure” about wrongdoing that they have witnessed at work. To qualify for the protections, a worker must generally make their disclosure either to their employer or the relevant “prescribed person”. “Prescribed persons”’ are typically regulatory bodies for the sector in which the whistleblower works or the type of wrongdoing involved.

I assure noble Lords that, over recent years, the Government have taken steps to support a cultural change in relation to whistleblowing in all sectors, including financial services. A number of statutory and non-statutory improvements have been made. This includes guidance for whistleblowers on how in practice to make disclosures while preserving their employment protections; and guidance for employers including a non-statutory code of practice which we will review this year. We have fulfilled the commitment to keep the prescribed persons list up to date with annual reviews, and we now have guidance in place for prescribed persons. The next update will require prescribed persons to report annually on the number of whistleblowing disclosures they have received and broadly the action that resulted.

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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I agree with the Minister that the office is not the right way forward, but is she saying that everything is fine?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I am saying that the Government looked at this in 2014, certainly in terms of the financial incentives, and there are various mechanisms in the different sectors for whistleblowers to come forward. The ultimate sanction for employers is unlimited compensation, depending on the type of wrongs that that employer engages in.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sorry to come back on this, but I take it that the Government do not think that anything further needs to be done on this at the moment.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The Government are never complacent in any area of law they introduce; I would never say that everything is perfect.

Baroness Kramer Portrait Baroness Kramer
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, obviously I am going to withdraw the amendment, but I want first to make a couple of points. I am not going to give up on this issue. Let me point out that a moment ago the Minister talked about an office for money laundering to be set up within the FCA. As far as I am concerned, that is an ideal pattern to follow. The notion that this proposal would create an extraordinary and hefty bureaucracy is not credible because, frankly, the entire bureaucracy would probably be paid for by one whistleblower revealing one scandal on the scale that we have seen in recent years. I reject the idea that this is onerous. There are plenty of templates to follow that would allow us to do this sensibly.

On the financial incentive, I do not believe for a moment that whistleblowers do it for the money. The money is a recognition that they have destroyed their future. There may be some protection within the company they work for which ensures that they are not dismissed, but neither I nor anyone else can be persuaded that people do not look at whistleblowers and decide that they are not quite right for this promotion, that project or opportunity. If they try to change companies they go with what is almost a black spot on their hand, marking them out as someone it is perhaps better not to take a risk on. That is a reality which the Government have never faced up to.

When dealing with detriment, I would recommend the Minister and others who are interested to connect with the charity Whistleblower.co.uk, which would be delighted to provide them with a great deal of detail. I hesitate to mention individuals without their specific permission, but all the protections have turned out to be completely useless for them. People’s lives have been wrecked. Frankly, even the regulator would agree that despite all the systems that are in place, people’s lives have been wrecked, and there has only been some tinkering at the edges. Nothing has happened to bring about fundamental change. All this comes together in the poor statistics that I set out when moving the amendment. Very few people are coming forward and blowing the whistle on substantive issues that can affect our absolutely massive financial services sector. This allows the industry to be rather complacent, and that is exceedingly dangerous.

I hope that the Minister will recognise that while I will withdraw the amendment, we are nowhere near coming to the end of this issue.

Criminal Finances Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Criminal Finances Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Tuesday 28th March 2017

(7 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Criminal Finances Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 104-I Marshalled list for Committee (PDF, 179KB) - (24 Mar 2017)
Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has merit and widens the Bill so that assets which can be used as currency can be included for the purposes of the forfeiture of cash. In some parts of the world, mobile phone credits are traded as cash and it would not be impossible to see situations where large quantities of these credits could be traded, hold the proceeds of crime and be used as currency. There will be other items that will be used in similar circumstances in the future.

However, I am not persuaded by Amendment 84 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I understand the arguments about what is included in this broad definition but believe that what is shown in the Bill as “listed assets” is better. However, I would want the regulations which may amend subsection (1) to use the affirmative procedure because it is important that we have a discussion about it at that time.

Amendments 85, 89, and 106 add the words “reasonable grounds for suspecting”. Those are proportionate clarifications which the Minister should adopt. I am not convinced that Amendment 87 is necessary. I see the point which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is seeking to address but hope that the Government will confirm that the words “safely stored” will cover this point and that valuable goods will be stored appropriately.

I am not persuaded of the merits of Amendment 102, although I do support Amendments 103 and 104 in the name of the noble Baroness. If the court is satisfied that the person has suffered a loss then they should be compensated for that loss and it is important that regulations made under this section are not used to restrict the payment of compensation. Amendment 105 is also a sensible addition, unless the Minister says very clearly today that a person’s reasonable living expenses include them providing for their dependants. Amendment 106, bringing in the term “reasonable grounds”, in respect of forfeiture is also a welcome provision.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for their contributions, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, for his kind words. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has—as always—scrutinised the provisions in some detail and I am grateful to her for the points she raised. Her Amendments 81 and 84 seek to broaden the scope of the seizure and forfeiture powers at Clauses 13 and 14 so that they can essentially be used to seize any items deemed to be the proceeds of crime. However, these will create a number of issues. The test that the property “may be used as currency” is legally ambiguous and untested, and it could complicate the use of these powers. The effect of Amendment 81 would also be to include a wide range of property in the cash forfeiture procedure which is not easily severable, as would be required for these provisions.

The noble Baroness referred to bitcoin at the beginning of her speech. There are difficulties in defining what we would seize. While we would not include this in the Bill, we are continuing to work with law enforcement agencies to determine how we should approach this issue more generally, and specifically to determine whether there is a gap in law enforcement capability that requires legislative change.

In respect of the noble Baroness’s Amendment 84, I am sure she would agree that we must take a proportionate approach to ensure that there is clarity regarding what can and cannot be seized. The items listed in the Bill are there based on clear justification that they may be used to move or hide the proceeds of crime, and we drew on the advice of law enforcement practitioners in developing this list. Her amendments would move away from the principle of clarity, eroding the careful circumscription that the Bill provides for these provisions. We can add to the list when the need arises, subject to parliamentary approval. As we have demonstrated through our amendments during the Bill’s passage, we will do so where a clear case arises. This gives us and the police the flexibility and balance we need while ensuring that this is not a sweeping seizure power. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for allowing me to emphasise how seriously the Government take these issues, particularly the need for stringent safeguards on the use of such powers. I trust that she will feel inclined not to press these amendments.

I turn to the other amendments tabled by the noble Baroness. Amendment 85 seeks to insert the principle of “reasonable grounds for suspicion” into the definition of a listed asset. However, this appears to insert this test in the wrong place in the Bill. We consider that the inclusion of the “reasonable grounds to suspect” test in the sections relating to the operation of the seizure powers is more appropriate, and this approach mirrors the existing provisions for the recovery of cash.

Amendment 86 seeks to require the Secretary of State to take the actions relating to the issuing of the code of practice for searches for listed items before it is issued. The provision in the Bill is consistent with existing wording in the Proceeds of Crime Act relating to codes of conduct. I assure the noble Baroness that all the relevant actions will be taken before a code is issued.

Amendment 87 seeks to require that items seized under these provisions should be stored in appropriate conditions. The agency seizing such property is liable for its storage, and would be liable for damage to such property if due care were not taken. Therefore, we believe that the agency responsible would take such action in any case.

Amendment 102 seeks to remove the provision allowing the release of the listed item if the victim was deprived of it through unlawful conduct. The provision is one of three principles that the court must consider when the victim applies to the court for the item to be returned. The removal of this provision would remove the requirement on the victim to show that they had lost the property through unlawful means. This is an important test that the court must satisfy itself on, and which already applies to the well-established system for the forfeiture of cash, and we believe that it should be retained.

Amendment 104 seeks to prevent the Secretary of State restricting the payment of compensation through regulation. The intention behind the power in the Bill is to ensure that the appropriate agency can be held responsible for any compensation that may be paid. It allows the Secretary of State to add to the list of those who are liable for paying compensation where appropriate. The provision already exists for cash forfeiture, and I see no reason not to replicate it here. It should be noted that the circumstances in which compensation would be payable are set out elsewhere in new Section 303W, and that the Secretary of State’s power does not extend to amending these provisions.

The noble Baroness asked why exceptional circumstances are required. This is modelled on the cash provisions. The seizure power applies to a limited number of assets. It is not anticipated that, in normal circumstances, seizure would result in loss being sustained. The items are not likely to change in value during the timeframe for seizure.

I turn to provisions relating to Clause 15. Amendment 105 seeks to extend the exclusions to an account-freezing order to include the living expenses of a person’s dependants. The provision for exclusions relates to the actions on the account and the owner’s ability to use the contents of the account to meet reasonable living expenses. I fully appreciate that there may be dependants of the account owner who would be adversely affected if no provision were made for the account to be used to meet their living expenses. That is why we have included this provision. The living expenses will be determined by a court and, if there are dependants, the court will take them into consideration.

Amendment 106 would include a provision that, where forfeiture is sought on the grounds that it will be used for unlawful conduct, the officer must have reasonable grounds for suspicion that this is the case. The existing provisions already require the officer to be satisfied that the property may be recoverable or may be used for unlawful conduct, and we do not want to lower that threshold.

I thank noble Lords for their patience. I hope that I have addressed the issues that the noble Baroness raised and that she will be happy to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

When I spoke about listed assets, on page 44 of the Bill, I said I preferred what was in the Bill to the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I mentioned regulations being made by the affirmative procedure. Of course, it does not say that here, so I am assuming that they are not—that they will be made by the negative procedure or in some other way. Perhaps the Minister could write to me on this.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I am looking for a yes or a no, but I do not think that I will get it, so I will write to the noble Lord.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Stevens and Lord Kennedy. Mobile phone credits for cash? I have led a very sheltered life.

The Minister said that the problem was in the phrase “may be used as currency”. But it seems to me that one can know that only through experience. That is why betting receipts, gaming vouchers and so on have now been included. I am really not sure that I follow the argument, although I will think about it after this evening.

I mentioned bitcoins not because I was suggesting that they should be included but simply as an example of how some time ago we did not know what was coming.

One’s living expenses include the expenses of dependants—I think that is what the Minister said. She is nodding. It is not quite within the normal meaning of the words, but I will accept that, and I am glad that it has been confirmed.

I do not think that I adequately followed the argument about the term “exceptional circumstances”. The Minister said quite a lot about the rest of the clause and of course I shall look at that after this evening. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - -

Perhaps I may intervene to say that the regulations will be affirmative.

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Moved by
82: Clause 13, page 43, line 46, leave out from “machine” to second “that” in line 1 on page 44
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Moved by
88: Clause 14, page 54, line 12, at end insert—
“(3A) An order under subsection (3) made by a magistrates’ court may provide for payment under section 303U of reasonable legal expenses that a person has reasonably incurred, or may reasonably incur, in respect of— (a) the proceedings in which the order is made, or(b) any related proceedings under this Chapter.(3B) A sum in respect of a relevant item of expenditure is not payable under section 303U in pursuance of provision under subsection (3A) unless—(a) the person who applied for the order under subsection (3) agrees to its payment, or(b) the court has assessed the amount allowed in respect of that item and the sum is paid in respect of the assessed amount.(3C) For the purposes of subsection (3B)—(a) a “relevant item of expenditure” is an item of expenditure to which regulations under section 286B would apply if the order under subsection (3) had instead been a recovery order;(b) an amount is “allowed” in respect of a relevant item of expenditure if it would have been allowed by those regulations;(c) if the person who applied for the order under subsection (3) was a constable, an SFO officer or an accredited financial investigator, that person may not agree to the payment of a sum unless the person is a senior officer or is authorised to do so by a senior officer.(3D) “Senior officer” has the same meaning in subsection (3C)(c) as it has in section 303E.”
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Moved by
90: Clause 14, page 55, line 43, at end insert—
“(5A) An order under subsection (1) made by a magistrates’ court may provide for payment under subsection (9) of reasonable legal expenses that a person has reasonably incurred, or may reasonably incur, in respect of—(a) the proceedings in which the order is made, or(b) any related proceedings under this Chapter.(5B) A sum in respect of a relevant item of expenditure is not payable under subsection (9) in pursuance of provision under subsection (5A) unless—(a) the person who applied for the order under subsection (1) agrees to its payment, or(b) the court has assessed the amount allowed in respect of that item and the sum is paid in respect of the assessed amount.(5C) For the purposes of subsection (5B)—(a) a “relevant item of expenditure” is an item of expenditure to which regulations under section 286B would apply if the order under subsection (1) had instead been a recovery order;(b) an amount is “allowed” in respect of a relevant item of expenditure if it would have been allowed by those regulations.”
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Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Portrait Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, is talking about post-legislative scrutiny arrangements. I quite favour post-legislative scrutiny but think that the amendment has some serious weaknesses. Essentially, it is a list of requests, in the sense that proposed new subsection (2)(a), (b) and (c) asks for additional resources and training. When you tie that in with the list of enforcement authorities overleaf in proposed new subsection (3)(a) to (e), there are some extremely serious and bulky authorities there that could come up with a pretty large list of what they might want. While I entirely support what is said in proposed new subsection (2)(d)—

“to what extent enforcement authorities have used the powers provided”,

which is an extremely good point to inquire about—nowhere does the report require any assessment of what has been achieved. It seems to me that the critical aspect of the Bill is what is achieved. I worry that what we have here is a shopping list for more resources but without any need to justify the money that has been spent or to what extent it has proved effective in various ways; for example, by inhibiting crime or by seizing drugs or other forms of assets.

Finally, 18 months would be a very short time in which to make this sort of assessment. By the time this begins to build as an organisation, it will be longer than that. We are in danger of taking a snapshot in which we get only half the picture—that is the asking half and not the delivery half—and of looking at it before it is fully fledged and developed. I hope that my noble friend will resist this amendment, in this form at least.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts for speaking to the amendment. As with all powers introduced in legislation, it is crucial that the necessary resources are available to law enforcement and prosecution agencies so that they are used effectively. As he mentioned, ARIS is essential to this work. Under this scheme, half of all assets recovered go back to the law enforcement and prosecution agencies involved. Put simply, the more they recover, the more they get back. I am pleased to say that £764 million has been raised since 2006, and over £257 million in the last three years has been invested in law enforcement agencies under this scheme. The new powers will ensure that there are even more efficient ways of recovering assets and that they will be cheaper. Indeed, senior law enforcement officers gave evidence to the Commons Public Bill Committee that the powers will help agencies achieve more with the resources that they have. We have not downplayed the estimates in the impact assessment. These are provided subject to all the standard guidance based on input from law enforcement, the banks and others.

In addition, the Home Office share of ARIS is invested in front-line capabilities, including the regional organised crime units, which have received over £100 million in direct funding from the Home Office since 2013-14. Further to this, £5 million has been set aside from ARIS every year until the end of this Parliament to fund key national asset recovery capabilities, and we are fulfilling a manifesto commitment to return a greater percentage of recovered assets back to policing by investing all the Home Office share of the scheme’s money—above a certain baseline—in the multiagency regional asset recovery teams.

All the agencies listed in this amendment already report on their resources and results through departmental annual accounts and reports. As my noble friend said, this is about what they have achieved. They are subject to examination by the National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee. The Criminal Finances Board, which is co-chaired by the Security Minister and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, closely monitors resourcing, performance and support mechanisms such as training, to ensure that agencies are achieving results with the powers that Parliament imparts to them.

Finally, the Government have protected the NCA’s budget. In addition, new capital investment of over £200 million will be available over the period 2016 to 2020, to transform the NCA into a world-leading law enforcement agency, with new digital and investigative capabilities to tackle cybercrime, child exploitation and the distribution of criminal finances. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked how many UWOs would be used and why so few were predicted. I said before—and the noble Lord said—that it was a conservative estimate, but we will encourage their use from day one. We are already actively engaging with law enforcement and prosecutors to encourage the use of all the new powers being introduced by the Bill. I hope with those words that the noble Lord is satisfied with my response. I know that we will keep an eye on this in the future but, for now, I hope that he will feel happy to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I thank the Minister for her response and the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, for his contribution. The noble Lord’s main criticism of the amendment—not the only one—was that it did not provide for the authorities mentioned to say what they had achieved. I would have thought it was for the Government to say what they expected the authorities concerned to achieve in the light of the provisions of the Bill and the new offences and enhanced powers that they were giving the agencies. As yet, however, I have not heard anything from the Government about what they expect the agencies to achieve as a result of the Bill. There is some difficulty in requiring the agencies to report when the Government have not set them any targets that they are meant to attain. I do not know whether it is the Government’s intention to tell noble Lords at some stage what they think the agencies should be able to achieve in respect, for example, of a reduction in money laundering or the number of people who are arrested as a result of carrying it out. What do they expect the agencies to achieve in relation to the additional powers in the Bill? I do not know if this is something on which the Minister is prepared to write and tell me. What are the goals that the Government think these additional powers, and the resources that they say they are going to put in, will be achieved by the agencies? That is what is missing.

We have been having debates about the new powers and the noble Baroness has reminded us of the amount of money that has been provided so far, but what we are not getting is what the Government think the Bill will achieve to improve the situation. Is the Minister, either now or at some stage in the future, able to give me any idea of what the Government are expecting as a result of the new and enhanced powers in the Bill?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, the Government have not been fixated on targets, but we most certainly will have expectations of what can be achieved and they will be laid out in due course.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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How will they be laid out? Are they to be set out in regulations or will the Government be making a Statement?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I would guess that they will be laid out in regulations and they will be revealed in due course.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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We await the regulations with interest.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Perhaps I may intervene once more. I will confirm in writing to the noble Lord that they will be laid out in regulations. I do not want to make misleading statements at the Dispatch Box, but I can let him know in due course.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I would be happy for the noble Baroness to write to me, but whether the letter will set out what she has just said remains to be seen. However, I am happy for her to write to me on this issue; it would be very helpful. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
111: Clause 25, page 79, line 36, leave out “, subject to subsection (9),”
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Moved by
113: Clause 26, page 80, line 24, at end insert—
“( ) In subsection (2), for paragraphs (a) and (b) substitute—“(a) has been seized under a relevant seizure power by a constable or another person lawfully exercising the power, and(b) is being detained in connection with a criminal investigation or prosecution or with an investigation of a kind mentioned in section 341.”( ) After subsection (2) insert—“(2A) But this section applies to money only so far as the money is free property.”( ) Omit subsection (3). ( ) In subsection (5)(as it has effect before and after its amendment by section 36 of the Serious Crime Act 2015), for “bank or building society” substitute “appropriate person”.( ) In subsection (5A), at the beginning insert “Where this section applies to money which is held in an account maintained with a bank or building society,”.( ) In subsection (7A), after “applies” insert “by virtue of subsection (1)”.”
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Moved by
116: Clause 27, page 81, line 12, leave out from “seized” to end of line 23 and insert “under a relevant seizure power by a constable or another person lawfully exercising the power, and
(b) is being detained in connection with a criminal investigation or prosecution or with an investigation of a kind mentioned in section 341.(3) But this section applies to money only so far as the money is free property.”
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Moved by
119: After Clause 30, insert the following new Clause—
“Reconsideration of discharged orders
(1) The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 is amended as follows.(2) In section 24 (inadequacy of available amount: discharge of order made under Part 2), after subsection (5) insert—“(6) The discharge of a confiscation order under this section does not prevent the making of an application in respect of the order under section 21(1)(d) or 22(1)(c).(7) Where on such an application the court determines that the order should be varied under section 21(7) or (as the case may be) 22(4), the court may provide that its discharge under this section is revoked.”(3) In section 25 (small amount outstanding: discharge of order made under Part 2), after subsection (3) insert—“(4) The discharge of a confiscation order under this section does not prevent the making of an application in respect of the order under section 21(1)(d) or 22(1)(c).(5) Where on such an application the court determines that the order should be varied under section 21(7) or (as the case may be) 22(4), the court may provide that its discharge under this section is revoked.”(4) In section 109 (inadequacy of available amount: discharge of order made under Part 3), after subsection (5) insert—“(6) The discharge of a confiscation order under this section does not prevent the making of an application in respect of the order under section 106(1)(d) or 107(1)(c).(7) Where on such an application the court determines that the order should be varied under section 106(6) or (as the case may be) 107(3), the court may provide that its discharge under this section is revoked.”(5) In section 174 (inadequacy of available amount: discharge of order made under Part 4), after subsection (5) insert—“(6) The discharge of a confiscation order under this section does not prevent the making of an application in respect of the order under section 171(1)(d) or 172(1)(c).(7) Where on such an application the court determines that the order should be varied under section 171(7) or (as the case may be) 172(4), the court may provide that its discharge under this section is revoked.”(6) In section 175 (small amount outstanding: discharge of order made under Part 4), after subsection (3) insert—“(4) The discharge of a confiscation order under this section does not prevent the making of an application in respect of the order under section 171(1)(d) or 172(1)(c).(5) Where on such an application the court determines that the order should be varied under section 171(7) or (as the case may be) 172(4), the court may provide that its discharge under this section is revoked.”(7) The amendments made by this section apply in relation to a confiscation order whether made before or after the day on which this section comes into force but do so only where the discharge of the order occurs after that day.”
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Moved by
120: Clause 32, page 84, line 43, after “Wales)” insert “—
( ) in subsection (2), after paragraph (e) insert—“(ea) paragraph 3(2), 6(2), 10D(1), 10G(2), 10J(3), 10S(2) or 10Z2(3) of Schedule 1 to the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001;”;( ) ”
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Moved by
128: Clause 34, page 90, line 44, at end insert—
“( ) Subsection (1) applies whether or not the conditions in section 21CA were met in respect of the disclosure if the person making the disclosure did so in the reasonable belief that the conditions were met.”
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Moved by
130: Clause 35, page 92, line 3, leave out from beginning to end of line 42 on page 94 and insert—
“Further information orders22B Further information orders(1) A magistrates’ court or (in Scotland) the sheriff may, on an application made by a law enforcement officer, make a further information order if satisfied that either condition 1 or condition 2 is met.(2) The application must—(a) specify or describe the information sought under the order, and(b) specify the person from whom the information is sought (“the respondent”).(3) A further information order is an order requiring the respondent to provide—(a) the information specified or described in the application for the order, or(b) such other information as the court or sheriff making the order thinks appropriate,so far as the information is in the possession, or under the control, of the respondent.(4) Condition 1 for the making of a further information order is met if—(a) the information required to be given under the order would relate to a matter arising from a disclosure made under section 21A,(b) the respondent is the person who made the disclosure or is otherwise carrying on a business in the regulated sector,(c) the information would assist in—(i) investigating whether a person is involved in the commission of an offence under any of sections 15 to 18 or in determining whether an investigation of that kind should be started, or(ii) identifying terrorist property or its movement or use, and(d) it is reasonable in all the circumstances for the information to be provided.(5) Condition 2 for the making of a further information order is met if—(a) the information required to be given under the order would relate to a matter arising from a disclosure made under a corresponding disclosure requirement, (b) an external request has been made to the National Crime Agency for the provision of information in connection with that disclosure,(c) the respondent is carrying on a business in the regulated sector,(d) the information is likely to be of substantial value to the authority that made the external request in determining any matter in connection with the disclosure, and(e) it is reasonable in all the circumstances for the information to be provided.(6) For the purposes of subsection (5), “external request” means a request made by an authority of a foreign country which has responsibility in that country for carrying out investigations into whether a corresponding terrorist financing offence has been committed.(7) A further information order must specify—(a) how the information required under the order is to be provided, and(b) the date by which it is to be provided.”
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Moved by
138: Clause 36, page 96, line 42, at end insert—
“( ) betting receipts,”.”
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Moved by
141: Schedule 3, page 132, line 6, at end insert—
“(2A) An order under sub-paragraph (2) made by a magistrates’ court may provide for payment under paragraph 10N of reasonable legal expenses that a person has reasonably incurred, or may reasonably incur, in respect of—(a) the proceedings in which the order is made, or(b) any related proceedings under this Part of this Schedule.(2B) A sum in respect of a relevant item of expenditure is not payable under paragraph 10N in pursuance of provision under sub-paragraph (2A) unless—(a) the person who applied for the order under sub-paragraph (2) agrees to its payment, or(b) the court has assessed the amount allowed in respect of that item and the sum is paid in respect of the assessed amount. (2C) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (2B)—(a) a “relevant item of expenditure” is an item of expenditure to which regulations under section 286B of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 would apply if the order under sub-paragraph (2) had instead been a recovery order made under section 266 of that Act;(b) an amount is “allowed” in respect of a relevant item of expenditure if it would have been allowed by those regulations;(c) if the person who applied for the order under sub- paragraph (2) was an authorised officer, that person may not agree to the payment of a sum unless the person is a senior officer or is authorised to do so by a senior officer.”
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Lord Empey Portrait Lord Empey (UUP)
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My Lords, Members may be familiar with this theme, to which I have returned on a number of occasions, including via a Private Member's Bill. It follows the principle that persons who have been engaged in criminal activity, persons who have been engaged in activities contrary to human rights and persons who have been involved in terrorism and who have attacked this country consistently over a long period should not have access to their assets without the opportunity for victims of the activities of those individuals, organisations or, in this case, the state to have those assets forfeited to the extent of the injuries inflicted.

The position is very simple: for many years, the state of Libya supplied terrorists with material, primarily in the form of Semtex. It provided training and logistical support. It provided boatloads—literally—of weapons. It provided the arms, training and logistics for a terrorist organisation. Many persons in the United Kingdom were injured and suffered great loss as a direct result of that activity. If we are contemplating a Bill which has a section in it dealing with terrorism, that seems the perfect opportunity for Her Majesty’s Government to deal with this matter.

I know that the Minister will say, “Oh, but there’s a United Nations resolution, and there are resolutions of the European Union”—I am sure I could read out her reply blindfold. However, the United Kingdom is a permanent member of the Security Council. We are a member of the European Union. At this point in time, after years and years, we have not even asked our European partners or the United Nations for any variation whatever on the asset-freezing resolutions to take account of the humanitarian needs of our own citizens. Other countries—the United States, France, Germany and Italy—have all had compensation paid to their citizens as a result of terrorist activity. We are the glaring exception, despite the fact that more people have suffered in this country than in any other—there is no argument about that.

I have been writing to government since 2002. My first letter was to Tony Blair; it was replied to by Mike O’Brien, at that time in the Home Office. I have had letters from Prime Minister Cameron. We had letters from the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, when she was at the Foreign Office, the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, and other Ministers in Administrations of all parties. The Minister may be aware that a group of us from all parties is pursuing this issue in both places. Even today, I know that efforts have been made by an all-party group of Back-Benchers in the other place to go to the Backbench Business Committee to see whether they can get support for a debate. I know that the honourable Member for Poplar and Limehouse, Jim Fitzpatrick, whose patch includes the site of the London Docklands bomb, is active in this and introduced a debate in Westminster Hall early last year.

There is a broad swathe of support for the measure in your Lordships’ House because it passed my Private Member's Bill, the Asset Freezing (Compensation) Bill, last year. That has unfortunately been stalled for three solid months in a row using the procedural device of objecting in the other place. It is now scheduled to come up on 12 May but I have no doubt that it will be blocked again. The reason is that last summer we went to see Treasury and Foreign Office officials and we challenged them. I also went to the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee to hear evidence from former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. That was very revealing. His reaction was, “These people were compensated”. That is technically true but they were compensated by the British taxpayer, not the people who perpetrated the acts or provided the material to attack them. That was a perverse position. It seems that there has been the most bizarre attitude over the last 15 to 20 years. Where would you get a situation in this day and age where another country would conduct a proxy war against you, injure your citizens, and you ignore it?

We happen to know that there are £9.5 billion of assets attributed to the Libyan regime headquartered in London. We should ask our colleagues in the United Nations and the European Union to see if we can even take a lean against part of those assets to help our own citizens who were injured as a result of this activity. The Bill is another vehicle where this is consistent with the principles behind it. It is consistent with justice and with the fact that the people who supplied that material were in severe breach of all human rights legislation that you could imagine. Some of the most terrible injuries were inflicted by these people. Part 2 of the Bill would extend the measures such as disclosure orders to apply to terrorism investigations. We see it talk about gross human rights violations, and seizure and forfeiture powers. The principles are all there in the Bill. We should use the scope of this legislation to deal with one of the most significant and long-running major injustices that has afflicted our people.

Also, Her Majesty’s Government should make some serious effort—I see no sign that it has been made heretofore—in the United Nations and European Union to get our partners to help us. I am all for asset-freezing and resolutions, and I understand that the Government cannot just act unilaterally. However, they have not even bothered to lift a finger for nearly 20 years. I find that unacceptable. The Bill provides a vehicle whereby we can seriously address and right a great wrong. I beg to move.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for highlighting this issue. I pay tribute to his many years of work on counterterrorism matters. I am very pleased to be able to respond.

As we heard, Amendment 156 would impose a duty on the Treasury to prevent the release of assets of an individual that have been frozen under various legislative regimes by using “all action necessary”, including considering the use of a designation under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010. The Terrorism Act 2000, or TACT, already includes a number of criminal offences under Sections 15 to 18 for terrorist financing, including the use, possession or funding of assets in support of terrorist activity. Specifically, Section 23 of TACT provides for the forfeiture of money and/or property following a conviction for these and other terrorism offences. This means that assets can be frozen by way of a restraint order during the investigation and prosecution of such offences, and subsequently forfeited upon a successful conviction, ensuring that they are not available to terrorist organisations.

The element of the noble Lord’s amendment relating to compensation is also covered by paragraph 4A of Schedule 4 to TACT, which allows for the proceeds of the forfeiture of property to be paid as compensation to the victims of terrorism.

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Moved by
157: Clause 40, page 104, line 45, after “fine” insert “not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale”
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Moved by
159: Clause 40, page 105, line 33, after “fine” insert “not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale”
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Moved by
160: After Clause 40, insert the following new Clause—
“Enforcement in other parts of United KingdomEnforcement in other parts of United Kingdom
After section 120B of the Terrorism Act 2000 (inserted by section 40 above) insert—“ 120C Enforcement of orders in other parts of United Kingdom(1) Her Majesty may by Order in Council make provision for an investigatory order made in one part of the United Kingdom to be enforced in another part.(2) In subsection (1)“investigatory order” means any of the following kinds of order—(a) an order under section 22B (further information orders);(b) an order under paragraph 5 of Schedule 5 (production orders: England and Wales and Northern Ireland) that is made in connection with a terrorist investigation in relation to terrorist property;(c) an order under paragraph 13(1)(b) of that Schedule that is made in connection with material produced or made available as a result of an order within paragraph (b) of this subsection;(d) an order under paragraph 22 of Schedule 5 (production orders: Scotland) that is made in connection with a terrorist investigation in relation to terrorist property;(e) an order under paragraph 30(1)(b) of that Schedule that is made in connection with material produced or made available as a result of an order within paragraph (d) of this subsection;(f) an order under paragraph 9 of Schedule 5A (disclosure orders: England and Wales and Northern Ireland);(g) an order under paragraph 19 of that Schedule (disclosure orders: Scotland);(h) an order under paragraph 1 of Schedule 6 (financial information orders);(i) an order under paragraph 2 of Schedule 6A (account monitoring orders).(3) An Order under this section may apply (with or without modifications) any provision of or made under—(a) an Act (including this Act),(b) an Act of the Scottish Parliament, or(c) Northern Ireland legislation.(4) An Order under this section—(a) may make different provision for different purposes;(b) may include supplementary, incidental, saving or transitional provisions.(5) Rules of court may make whatever provision is necessary or expedient to give effect to an Order under this section. (6) A statutory instrument containing an Order under this section is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.””

Criminal Finances Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Criminal Finances Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 3rd April 2017

(7 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Criminal Finances Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 104-II Second marshalled list for Committee - (30 Mar 2017)
Lord Judge Portrait Lord Judge (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I had intended to speak at a little length but the noble Lord, Lord Beith, has said everything that I wished to say about the dangers of creating criminal offences by secondary legislation.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am very pleased to be able to return today to our debate in Committee, beginning with the very important issue of corporate criminal liability. Through this Bill the Government are building on the efforts of the last Labour Government, when they created the Bribery Act, by creating new corporate offences of failure to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion. These are significant proposals and I look forward to debating them further shortly. The amendments in this group relate to corporate criminal liability for other types of economic crime—that is, other than bribery and the facilitation of tax evasion. This issue has, of course, arisen a number of times in both Houses during the passage of the Bill, and these amendments have allowed us to have an insightful and constructive debate.

As noble Lords have said, the damage caused by economic crime perpetrated on behalf of or in the name of companies—to individuals, businesses, the wider economy and the reputation of the United Kingdom as a place to do business—is a very serious matter. As this House will be aware, the Bribery Act is widely respected as both a sound enforcement tool and a measure that incentivises bribery prevention as part of good corporate governance. As I have said, this Bill makes similar provision in regard to the facilitation of tax evasion. That provision has followed a process of full and lengthy public consultation, as did the implementation of the Bribery Act. As my noble friend Lord Leigh alluded to, these are very complex legal and policy issues with the potential for significant impact on companies operating in the UK.

I hope noble Lords will agree that this level of detailed consideration of both the existing legal framework and any proposals to extend it was crucial. That is why the Government announced, at the time of last year’s London Anti-Corruption Summit, that we would consult on the creation of new forms of criminal liability. The Government’s public call for evidence on corporate criminal liability for economic crime was published on 13 January. It openly requested evidence for and against the case for reform, and sought views on a number of possible options, such as the Bribery Act’s “failure to prevent” model, as an alternative to the current common law rules. The consultation closed only last week, on Friday 31 March. The Ministry of Justice is now assessing the responses received, but, as noble Lords will appreciate, it is too early to confirm the outcome. Should the responses received justify changes to the law, the Government would then consult on a firm proposal, as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, articulated. I hope that reassures him that we are continuing to explore this issue as his amendment proposes. I trust noble Lords will agree that it would be wrong to rush into legislation, or to commit to doing so in the future, prior to giving the matter the appropriate consideration, as my noble friend Lord Hodgson said.

Amendment 161 provides for the novel approach that we could add additional offences to the legislation by regulations. I commend the noble Baroness on her ingenuity—I was promised she would show it—but, as I have said, these are complex issues with potentially significant implications for companies across the country. The Government do not, therefore, believe that it would be appropriate to extend the failure to prevent offences via secondary legislation, which would not allow for the appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny of proposals such as this.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, asked about the timing of the failure to prevent measures and why the Government do not act now. She said we cannot afford to delay and made a point about the upcoming Brexit legislation. I remind noble Lords that the Bribery Act offence has been on the statute book for a number of years, allowing us to assess its effectiveness. We are now legislating on tax evasion and already looking closely and openly at the question of extending it to wider economic crimes. The Government are not delaying, we are acting—and we are doing so in a sensible and considered way.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, asked about the standard of proof for the failure to prevent economic crime. Her Amendment 163 allows for the defence of reasonable procedures to be satisfied by the civil standard—that is, the balance of probabilities. I can confirm, as she wanted, that it mirrors the approach in the Government’s proposed offence of corporate failure to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked whether HMG will legislate to create corporate liability for failure to prevent serious harm or human rights abuse. I wrote to the noble Lord about this—it is obviously seared in his brain or, probably, was passed straight to his outbox. All businesses are expected to comply with the legislation that comes under the jurisdiction of the UK, including that which relates to human rights. While the Government have no ability to regulate UK businesses operating in overseas jurisdictions, we encourage them to honour the principles of internationally recognised human rights wherever they operate. More broadly, in 2013, we were the first country in the world to produce a national action plan in response to the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights.

Large UK-domiciled businesses must also comply with laws that require them to report certain human rights issues, including the Companies Act and our world-leading Modern Slavery Act, which requires them to produce annual statements on what they have done to ensure that such issues do not occur in their business and supply chains.

I hope I have fully answered noble Lords’ questions and that the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, will feel free to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I suspect I am on a mission that is not going to succeed, but it is unfortunate that a number of key decisions are likely not to be taken by the Government until this Bill becomes an Act. The Minister said that the closing date of the public call for evidence in relation to corporate criminal liability has just gone, but do the Government expect to give any indication before Report as to whether or not they will be moving to consultation on a firm proposal or, alternatively, are they likely to indicate before Third Reading whether they will be moving to consultation on a further proposal?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Perhaps I may look into that and let the noble Lord know because I am reluctant to make sweeping promises at the Dispatch Box without knowing exactly what the timescales will be. I will let him know, certainly before Report, what the expected timescales are.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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Before my noble friend responds, the Minister referred to the Modern Slavery Act. I do not want to be overly pedantic but I do want to be a bit pedantic because this is an important point. She mentioned the requirement on certain companies to report on the steps that they are taking under Section 54 with regard to their supply chains. I think that she will agree that their statement as regards the steps they are taking can be a statement,

“that the organisation has taken no such steps”.

That would be regrettable. However, there seems to be a feeling that every organisation has got to report the detail of the steps when that is not quite the case.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I would say that the statement a company makes reflects the company, and if a statement of no effort is made, it will be for others to judge the efficacy of that company.

Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Portrait Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister and other noble Lords for this debate and of course I appreciate that it is a little awkward that the call for evidence and consultation process are lagging behind the progress of the Bill. That is why I had my novel idea that we could put in place a framework here which is only an option. The circumstances are such that it would not be an outcry if the decision was that you had to do it in a different way, so as in my Amendment 163, the provision would just fall away. Of course, that provision would not be introduced by statutory instrument, it is just a delayed commencement. I still feel that there is some mileage in taking a further look at this kind of provision.

As a result of this debate, I think we have the answer to one of the questions in the call for evidence because of what the Government have said that they are thinking of introducing for the four criminal offences I have picked up on and that it may be by statutory instrument for the others. We have heard some good reasons as to why statutory instruments are not such a good idea, and indeed I think the Minister has conceded that. That may be the outcome of the ticks in the call for evidence. I would like to know how many ticks were made in that box; perhaps she could count them and let me know.

I reserve the right to have another go along the lines of Amendment 163, but at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Kramer Portrait Baroness Kramer
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My Lords, perhaps I may add one phrase only to this debate. I want to speak to Amendment 170 and suggest to the Government that this is frankly a no-brainer. We cannot afford to have inappropriate directors continuing to run companies, particularly when their inappropriate or inadequate behaviour has been exposed in the kind of circumstances discussed under Amendment 170. It is really important that the courts have a full range of tools. We no longer live in a world where the old-school tie and friendships determine who the appropriate directors of companies are. They have to be held to professional and appropriate standards. This proposed new clause would enable that to happen and I frankly cannot see why it should present any difficulties to the Government.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I am pleased that the amendments in this group have allowed us to have an extended debate on the tax evasion offences in Part 3 of the Bill. I am pleased to say that the Government are supportive of the intentions of these amendments, although that is not to say that further legislation is necessarily required.

Amendment 164 seeks to require the Secretary of State to publish an annual report on the number of companies that have, under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, been excluded from tendering for public contracts, or had existing contracts terminated after being charged under the new offences. I fully agree that contracting authorities should be able to exclude bidders that have been convicted under the new offence. The Public Contracts Regulations allow for this in appropriate cases. They grant contracting authorities discretion to refuse to award a public contract to an entity that has been involved in grave professional misconduct. Such misconduct may include committing the new offences of corporate failure to prevent the criminal facilitation of tax evasion. However, government does not collect information centrally on the number of organisations that have been excluded from public contracts under the 2015 regulations. This is because these decisions to exclude are taken by individual contracting authorities on a case-by-case basis, and this may include the new corporate offences.

Introducing a reporting requirement would create a burden on contracting authorities. Each contracting authority would have to make a return to central government, detailing the occasions that exclusion from a bidding process has occurred, and central government would then have to collate all these reports in order to compile national statistics to be published in the report. Such a reporting requirement would go against the Government’s drive to simplify the public procurement process and to cut red tape.

Current efforts are focused on ensuring that contracting authorities have the necessary information to know whether those bidding for contracts have relevant convictions so that contracting authorities can make more informed decisions on whether to exclude them. This includes the introduction of a robust conviction-checking process to prevent bidders with convictions for relevant offences—including the new offences—winning public contracts. This was announced at last year’s anti-corruption summit and is about to be piloted by the Crown Commercial Service.

Amendment 165 seeks to introduce a system of corporate probation orders. This would allow a court to require relevant bodies found guilty of the new corporate offences to amend their prevention procedures. I welcome the noble Lords’ amendment. It is absolutely right that relevant bodies convicted of the new offences, and thus found to have inadequate prevention procedures, should be required to implement changes to those procedures. In response, I draw noble Lords’ attention to Clause 48(2) of the Bill, which adds the corporate offences to the list of offences for which a serious crime prevention order can be imposed under the Serious Crime Act 2007. This enables a court passing sentence on a person, including a legal person such as a corporate body, to impose a serious crime prevention order to prevent, restrict or disrupt their involvement in serious crime by imposing prohibitions, restrictions or requirements on them. The terms of these orders may require the relevant body to allow a law enforcement agency to monitor how it provides services in the future.

Relevant bodies convicted of the new offences are criminals. They do not require special or different sentencing powers. They can be adequately sentenced under the existing criminal law, using a serious crime prevention order to enforce change to prevention procedures. Such an order can do anything that a corporate probation order would. Alternatively, similar provision can be included within the terms of a deferred prosecution agreement. I trust therefore that noble Lords will see that their commendable objective can already be achieved within existing law.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, for Amendment 170. I share concerns about ensuring that those who are unfit to be directors are identified and disqualified from holding such posts. The amendment seeks to amend the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 in order to allow a company director to be disqualified by the court when a relevant body is found to have committed one of the new corporate offences, or a similar failure to prevent an offence under the Bribery Act 2010.

At present, under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986, a company director can be disqualified on conviction by the sentencing court. Alternatively, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy can apply to the High Court for an order that a company director be disqualified. In either case, the company director would be a party to the proceedings, and thus given the opportunity to present their defence.

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Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Portrait Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted
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The point is that a procedure exists when there is a breach of competition law. That does not have to be referred back to the Secretary of State. There is a subsequent hearing as to whether the director was culpable by not having established the right procedures. It does not automatically say that, if the company is guilty, the directors are guilty. If the circumstance is such that the judge says, “I think we should look further at this”, why should it not then be in the prosecutor’s toolbox to say, “We want to continue smoothly on to the next stage”, which the prosecutor has probably already investigated? It is a civil procedure to disqualify a director, I remind the Minister, so the human rights implications are slightly different. If it works for competition, why can it not work for criminality? It seems to be saying that there is a stricter rule, where directors sit up and take notice of the fact that it looks a little bit more automatic even though the same defence is there. Therefore, it has a huge impact on corporate governance in making sure that the procedures are there. It may even be on a piece of paper on the boardroom table. I have personally heard, “Oh, this is something we can get disqualified for if we don’t get it right”. That is exactly how more boards should be thinking. This kind of procedure induces that. Maybe the Minister can write to me and explain why it is good for competition and not for criminality.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Baroness foxed me when she asked that question the first time and she is still foxing me. I shall write to her before Report because I really do not know the answer.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate, and I am pleased that the Minister understands the spirit and intention behind our amendment. The comments of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, are points well made. They have vast legal experience and if I bring the issue back at all on Report, I shall take on board their comments and wise legal advice and draft my amendment accordingly. I certainly thank all noble Lords for their contribution today, and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in an excellent debate. I pay particular tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, along with others who have spoken with passion and given considered contributions on a crucial issue.

I have addressed much of what has been raised in correspondence with noble Lords, but I hope that the House will allow me to put certain points on the record. As David Cameron said last year, international corruption,

“is the cancer at the heart of so many of the world’s problems”.

The Panama papers revealed the extent to which anonymous shell companies are used to hide large sums of wealth and circumvent sanctions. The UK is a global leader in the fight against corruption, and we are proud to be at the forefront of international efforts to increase corporate transparency. This includes working with all UK overseas territories with financial centres, and with the Crown dependencies, to tackle money laundering, terrorist financing, corruption and fraud. The territories and dependencies are, in turn, committed to fully meeting international standards, and in some respects are going beyond them, and to working with us to ensure that they do not act as a hiding place for illicit financial flows.

Last year, the UK signed an exchange of notes with all overseas territories with significant financial centres and with the Crown dependencies, setting out new arrangements on law enforcement access to beneficial ownership data. The exchange of notes provides that, when they have not already done so, overseas territories and Crown dependencies must all set up central registers or similarly effective systems of beneficial ownership information. It also provides that UK law enforcement authorities should have the automatic right to access this information, which means that beneficial ownership information will be available within 24 hours, or within one hour in urgent cases. Ensuring that law enforcement authorities are able to establish who is the ultimate owner of companies registered in the overseas territories and Crown dependencies is a crucial part of tackling the complex criminal networks that can exploit the system.

These arrangements are due to be implemented no later than June this year and will put them well ahead of most jurisdictions in terms of transparency, including many of our G20 partners and other major corporate and financial centres, including some states in the United States. Once in place, these arrangements will bring significant law enforcement benefits. They will prevent criminals hiding behind anonymous shell companies and mark a significant increase in UK law enforcement authorities’ ability to investigate bribery and corruption, money laundering and tax evasion.

The noble Baroness and other noble Lords started off by asking for a global standard definition, and I thought that I might address that up front. There is no single definition of a global standard for reach and coverage, but organisations such as the OECD and the Financial Action Task Force are key to the development of international standards in this area. As the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, said, the UK believes that a public register is a powerful tool, and we will continue to make that point in international fora. However, the OECD has focused on accurate, independently verifiable data as an important standard, which all the overseas territories are looking to implement.

The EU has also played an important role in advocating transparency, but the fourth anti-money laundering directive does not require EU states to make their registers public. In this context, I reiterate that the overseas territories and Crown dependencies are actually ahead of the current standard in implementing the exchange of notes. I will come back to this when I address the point made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. We are not saying that the global standard means that every country must have a public register, but we would certainly expect it to reflect the recommendations of groups like the OECD and FATF. The UK is leading the way in this area and we are, of course, working on transparency issues with international partners through these groups. I make it clear that the UK firmly believes that public registers are the gold standard. Our position has not changed, but putting a timeline on this work simply does not reflect the scale and complexity of these issues. The OTs and Crown dependencies will be significantly ahead of the global standard as it stands. They have their existing commitments and this, in itself, is moving the standard in the right direction.

Many noble Lords have asked about progress to date and I am pleased to be able to talk about that. We have been working closely with both the overseas territories and the Crown dependencies on implementation by the deadline. I can confirm that significant progress has been made and I will briefly share some highlights with noble Lords. The British Virgin Islands, one of the overseas territories, has already completed the technical construction and testing of its new cloud-based platform. It is now taking forward engagement with corporate service providers to ensure that data formatting is fully standardised in order to enable beneficial ownership data to be uploaded on to the system in advance of the deadline.

In December, the Cayman Islands Government passed an amendment to the Police Law, which is necessary for law enforcement co-operation, and have recently successfully amended three key pieces of legislation to underpin the functioning of their new system: the Companies Management Law, the Companies Law and the Limited Liability Companies Law. Bermuda has a long-standing central registry of beneficial ownership data. It is currently moving legislation through its legislature to enhance the register, including a requirement on legal entities in Bermuda to maintain registers of up-to-date information on their beneficial owners, and to file updated beneficial ownership information with the Bermuda Monetary Authority. Gibraltar is already committed to implementing the EU fourth anti-money laundering directive and has prepared legislation to take forward these commitments and the exchange of notes. The technical construction of its system is well advanced and it is now considering steps to populate the registry with data.

All these jurisdictions have also committed to the automatic exchange of beneficial ownership information, along with 50 other countries. This is important progress, but there is more to be done and we are not resting on our laurels. We are committed to following up on these arrangements to ensure that they deliver in practice. The exchanges of notes with all overseas territories and Crown dependencies make explicit provision for the Secretary of State and the Premier or Chief Minister to undertake a review of the arrangements six months after they come into force—that is, on 31 December 2017—and for further reviews to take place annually thereafter. The arrangements also provide for continuous monitoring by both parties. I hope this provides clear assurance that the effectiveness of the arrangements will be kept under careful scrutiny to ensure that they are meeting our law enforcement objectives.

The NCA has confirmed that it is already seeing enhanced co-operation from some overseas territories, and much shorter turnaround times for processing requests for information. We expect to see this further improved to meet the agreed standards by June this year. This progress demonstrates what can be achieved by working consensually with the overseas territories and Crown dependencies. It is reaping benefits and I believe it will continue to do so.

I turn to the amendments. Amendment 167 is similar to one tabled on Report in the Commons, in that it envisages a timetable for the adoption of public registers of beneficial ownership by the overseas territories. If they have not done so by the end of 2019, it would require the Government to force them to do so. The key difference with this amendment is that it does not cover Gibraltar.

Amendment 169 also requires the Government to support the Crown dependencies to establish public registers of beneficial ownership by the end of 2019, and to report to Parliament on the progress made. However, it does not require the Government to impose public registers on them.

A key feature of the Government’s approach is that it creates a level playing field between all of the overseas territories with financial centres and the Crown dependencies. By taking a different approach to the Crown dependencies and territories, these amendments risk disrupting this level playing field, creating weaknesses in certain jurisdictions that could be exploited and damaging the spirit of co-operation we have been able to create between them.

The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, made the point that Gibraltar need not be covered by Amendment 167 as it is committed to implementing the EU’s fourth anti-money laundering directive. However, it is important to note, as I said earlier, that the fourth anti-money laundering directive does not require member states to establish publicly accessible registers of beneficial ownership information, so to impose such a requirement on the overseas territories and Crown dependencies would go beyond what has been agreed with our neighbours in Europe. The provisions in the exchange of notes also go beyond the fourth anti-money laundering directive in providing UK law enforcement with access to information within 24 hours, and within one hour in certain cases.

Rather than imposing new requirements on the overseas territories, the Government feel strongly that we should continue to work with them and focus our efforts on the implementation of the existing arrangements, including the passage of new primary legislation in the territories and complex technological improvements. I recognise that it is the wish of some noble Lords that a timetable be set for public registers. However, the UK Government respect the constitutional relationship with the overseas territories and the Crown dependencies. My noble friend Lord Faulks queried whether there might be a legal issue. I suspect that he is right but I shall look into that before Report.

As I noted earlier, legislating for the overseas territories is something we have done only very rarely. It is done on issues such as the abolition of the death penalty, which raised issues of compliance with human rights obligations for which the UK retains responsibility. While tackling this kind of complex criminality and its consequences is extremely serious, there is a clear constitutional difference in the fact that financial services is an area that is devolved to territory Governments and, in the case of the Crown dependencies, the UK has never legislated for them without their consent. That may be the point to which my noble friend Lord Faulks referred.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks
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I confirm that that is precisely the point I was making.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I am so glad that I read it right. The UK is directly responsible for the OTs’ and the CDs’ compliance with international obligations, including the European Convention on Human Rights. It is our responsibility in international law, as the overseas territories have no legal personality under international law. That was a key factor in the UK taking the rare step to legislate for the OTs on the issue of, for example, the decriminalisation of homosexuality. While I acknowledge the moral dimension of tackling criminal finances, the same responsibility does not exist for financial services policy, which is OT government responsibility.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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Perhaps I may ask the Minister to clarify a couple of points. First, in the light of what she has said and what has been said in this debate about competitive disadvantage, are the Government arguing that accepting Amendment 167 would place the overseas territories at a competitive disadvantage and that that is a key reason for the Government opposing the amendment? Secondly, in view of what the Government have said about wanting to work with the overseas territories in particular, is the reality that if either the overseas territories or the Crown dependencies do not agree to public registers of beneficial ownership, then that will not happen in relation to the overseas territories and Crown dependencies?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Can the noble Lord repeat his last point?

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Certainly. My question relates to what the Government have said about working with the overseas territories. Does that mean that if either the overseas territories or the Crown dependencies decline to agree to public registers of beneficial ownership, then that will not happen in relation to the overseas territories and Crown dependencies? Is that the Government’s position?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, they are all committed to working towards the same end. It would be perverse if, having signed up to this arrangement, they then decided that they were not going to work with the Government. If they suddenly stalled on working with the Government, the Government would encourage them to do so in strong terms.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I did not realise they had signed up to public registers. Since the Government say they want to work with the overseas territories in particular, I am simply asking what would happen if either the overseas territories or Crown dependencies declined to agree to have public registers of beneficial ownership. Is the Government’s position that it would therefore not happen as far as the overseas territories and Crown dependencies are concerned?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, the Government are fully committed to working with the Crown dependencies and overseas territories to achieve the ultimate end of public registers. I have now forgotten what the noble Lord asked me on Amendment 167.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I was simply saying that, in the light of what has been said in this debate by a number of noble Lords about the overseas territories being placed at a competitive disadvantage if the amendment was accepted, are the Government arguing that to accept Amendment 167 would place the overseas territories at a competitive disadvantage and that that is a key reason for them opposing the amendment? Or is the reason for the Government’s opposition to the amendment a dislike of what they would describe as imposing something on the overseas territories rather than working with them?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Lord’s latter suggestion is correct: we do not want to impose on the overseas territories but want to work consensually with them to achieve the aims that we seek. The overseas territories may face competitive disadvantage in the short term, but in the long term, the transparent and open way in which the territories intend to work, and we with them, will be to their advantage.

Baroness Stern Portrait Baroness Stern
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I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, which has been a cornucopia of oratory, wisdom and detailed, reliable knowledge. I am very grateful to my co-signatories for their strong support. I appreciate the words of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Peterborough that this is a moral issue, and the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, about the United States and the abolition of slavery. I am most grateful for the detailed information from the Minister on progress; it was a bit much to digest in one go, but I will read it with interest. There is much that has been said in this debate to reflect on and consider before Report.

I would also like to say that today is the birthday of the noble Lord, Lord Leigh, and I wish him many happy returns. On that note, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
171: Schedule 5, page 152, line 27, leave out from beginning to “in” in line 28 and insert—
“ _(1) Section 18 of the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 (enforcement of UK judgments in other parts of UK) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (2)(f), at the end insert “or an unexplained wealth order made under that Part (see sections 362A and 396A of that Act)”.(3) ”
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Moved by
177: Clause 54, page 113, line 42, at end insert—
“( ) section (Reconsideration of discharged orders)(2) and (3);”
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Moved by
180: Clause 55, page 114, line 38, at end insert—
“( ) section (Reconsideration of discharged orders)(4);”

Criminal Finances Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Criminal Finances Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 25th April 2017

(7 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Criminal Finances Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 124-I Marshalled list for Report (PDF, 103KB) - (21 Apr 2017)
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, before I begin, I want to make a few comments. Following the decision last week to call a general election, this is likely to be the last opportunity for the House to scrutinise this legislation. As noble Lords have said, it has had cross-party support throughout its parliamentary passage and I am very grateful to noble Lords, through the usual channels, for enabling us to take both Report and Third Reading today. Time is very short, but we all agree that this Bill will deliver valuable powers to fight money laundering, prevent the financing of terrorism and combat corruption. I hope we can maintain consensus on the way forward and return the Bill swiftly to the Commons.

Perhaps I may also take a moment to thank the noble Lord, Lord Empey, who might have brought back an amendment today but, given the shortness of time, has decided not to do so. He would like it placed on the record that this in no way undermines his support for the victims groups that he has supported over many years.

As well as the amendments in the names of my noble friends, this first group is composed primarily of government amendments that seek to fine-tune the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. These are consequential on matters already in the Bill and should not, I suggest, raise any particular concerns. However, I will address each of them for the benefit of noble Lords.

Amendments 6 and 7 make explicit that unexplained wealth orders can be used in cases where the property of interest is registered in the name of an overseas company. UWOs should be a significant tool to help probe the ownership of UK property with suspected links to illicit funds, and these amendments seek to address the helpful intervention in Committee of my noble friend Lord Faulks about the London property market. Although it is already implicit that UWOs can apply to cases where property is held in the UK but registered overseas, this explicit clarification is helpful. However, it should in no way cast doubt over the other provisions in POCA, or elsewhere in law, where such an explicit clarification is not included. For example, Sections 84 and 414 of POCA define property in respect of confiscation and investigation powers respectively. These have been applied to property registered in the names of overseas companies where persons in the UK hold this property in some way. Those provisions must continue to operate in that way and I fully expect them to do so.

Our amendments clarify that the UWO provisions apply to property held by foreign companies, and our existing provisions already require a respondent to set out,

“the nature and extent of his interest”,

in a property. It is clear from this that a beneficial interest in property will be captured where a UWO is served on a serious criminal or a non-EEA PEP.

Regarding the specific points about the bodies corporate regardless of whether they hold or obtain property, the amendments provide clarity and certainty that the UWO provisions apply in this circumstance. We introduced the amendment, after discussing the point with my noble friend Lord Faulks, to make absolutely clear that UWOs can apply in respect of overseas companies. I made the important point that this clarification does not cast doubt on the normal application of the term “person” elsewhere in POCA or the statute book. I hope that this will address the concerns of my noble friend Lord Faulks in Amendment 2, which goes to the heart of the category of individuals on whom a UWO can be served. We have already previously clarified the wide scope of what is meant by “holding property”, which includes a person who has effective control over the property.

We have carefully considered the categories of potential respondents to a UWO and I was pleased to have the opportunity to discuss this with my noble friend. The Government do not consider that it is appropriate, or indeed proportionate, to add a third category of potential respondents to a UWO, when inclusion in that category is dependent only on the way in which an individual holds property. Property could, of course, be held in this way perfectly legitimately.

I will now refer to other points that were made. My noble friend asked about the annual tax on enveloped dwellings, which we have homed in on before. The annual tax on enveloped dwellings does not enable corporate or foreign ownership of property; it is a reality of UK law. I sympathise with the concerns raised, but I assure my noble friend that there is no evidence that the tax encourages money laundering. Many legitimate companies own property in holding companies.

On the point about the London property market that we have also touched on previously, I assure both my noble friend and noble Lords generally that the UWO is an important addition to the tools that can be used here. We are doing more: BEIS has launched a consultation on a public register of overseas ownership of UK property. Such a register would help to highlight abuses of this sort and deter investments of this type. We have created a public register of beneficial ownership and the register makes publicly available details of those who have a 25% stake or greater in a company’s shares or voting rights. The forthcoming set of money laundering regulations currently out for consultation will require estate agents to conduct customer due diligence on those purchasing property as well as those selling property. This will likely lead to more suspicious activity reports linked to property purchases and create more opportunities to use UWOs.

A number of noble Lords asked about purported compliance. They made the point that either a person complies or they do not. The term exists to balance against the serious consequence of not complying with a UWO. If you do not comply with one, the property is presumed to be recoverable in any subsequent civil recovery proceedings. This is without the need for the enforcement authority to provide evidence that the property is the proceeds of crime. This is reversing the burden of proof, which is a significant and unusual approach in our law, so purported compliance is to recognise that if a person engages with the process by answering all the points of a UWO, they will be protected from the presumption that their property is automatically recoverable, and issues as to whether they have complied or not will fall away. The onus transfers back to the enforcement authority to prove that the property is a proceed of crime in the usual way, and the term provides certainty as to the circumstances in which the presumption of recoverability will arise—which will be important in respect of any further proceedings against the property.

In addition, when the UWO is obtained the applicant agency has a broad scope to tailor the requests for further information and documents required by the order, meaning that the likelihood of a poor-quality response is reduced. Also, if a person provides a response, the UWO has been successful in flushing out evidence. The enforcement authority can decide whether to further investigate on the basis of that evidence or to launch proceedings.

I turn now to Amendments 15, 16 and 50, which clarify our existing provisions to ensure that in Scotland the ability to obtain vacant possession of a property can be dealt with at the same hearing as civil recovery relating to that property. Related to these provisions, Amendments 25 to 31 correct an inconsistency in the Bill. They will allow Scottish Ministers and Northern Ireland Ministers to make consequential amendments to legislation, including UK legislation, that is within their legislative competence. To ensure that any changes do not create unforeseen issues, they would be required to consult the Secretary of State prior to doing so.

The Bill provides HMRC and the Financial Conduct Authority with the power to pursue civil recovery proceedings and with supporting investigation powers. On further analysis, it was unclear whether their existing information sharing gateway powers would allow them to receive information for the purposes of these new functions. Amendments 45 to 48 make that certain.

The remaining government amendments in this group are a series of minor and technical amendments to POCA, particularly in respect of “free property”—that is, property belonging to a defendant that can be liable for confiscation. They insert correct references, ensure consistency of language and remove ambiguity to ensure that relevant powers work as they should.

Finally, I will address the other amendments tabled by my noble friend. Amendment 1 seeks to introduce a possible requirement for an individual served with a UWO to answer questions “on oath”. As my noble friend will recall from our earlier discussions on the Bill, a UWO is a civil, investigative power, and it is already a criminal offence for a respondent to a UWO to knowingly or recklessly provide false or misleading information. If a person engages with the UWO process by answering all the points of a UWO, we believe that it is right that the presumption should not apply, even if it is arguable that the person has not fully complied. The onus transfers back to the enforcement authority to prove that the property is a proceed of crime and can be recovered.

In Committee, I committed to publishing the draft code of practice in relation to UWOs and disclosure orders. I am pleased to confirm, as my noble friend already has, that I have since written to noble Lords who spoke in Committee and enclosed the draft code for their review. When I wrote I also committed to publishing the code on the GOV.UK website. I regret that we have been overtaken by events and that doing so now would not be consistent with pre-election guidance. However, I have placed a copy in the Library of the House to ensure that noble Lords can scrutinise it ahead of the public consultation that will follow in due course.

We will be considering addressing issues such as statements of truth in giving evidence and purported compliance in the POCA investigation code of practice. It will then be open to noble Lords to make any representations relating to that code once a final draft, subject to the required public consultation, and the order bringing the code into force are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. It will be debated in the House before being introduced.

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Moved by
6: Clause 1, page 8, line 3, at end insert—
“( ) References to a person who holds or obtains property include any body corporate, whether incorporated or formed under the law of a part of the United Kingdom or in a country or territory outside the United Kingdom.”
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Moved by
7: Clause 4, page 21, line 25, at end insert—
“( ) References to a person who holds or obtains property include any body corporate, whether incorporated or formed under the law of a part of the United Kingdom or in a country or territory outside the United Kingdom.”
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Moved by
8: After Clause 8, insert the following new Clause—
“Co-operation: beneficial ownership information
In Part 11 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (co-operation), after section 445 insert—“445A Sharing of beneficial ownership information(1) The relevant Minister must prepare a report about the arrangements in place between—(a) the government of the United Kingdom, and (b) the government of each relevant territory,for the sharing of beneficial ownership information.(2) The report must include an assessment of the effectiveness of those arrangements, having regard to such international standards as appear to the relevant Minister to be relevant.(3) The report—(a) must be prepared before 1 July 2019, and(b) must relate to the arrangements in place during the period of 18 months from 1 July 2017 to 31 December 2018.(4) The relevant Minister must—(a) publish the report, and(b) lay a copy of it before Parliament.(5) The reference in subsection (1) to arrangements in place for the sharing of beneficial ownership information between the government of the United Kingdom and the government of a relevant territory is to such arrangements as are set out in an exchange of notes—(a) for the provision of beneficial ownership information about a person incorporated in a part of the United Kingdom to a law enforcement authority of the relevant territory at the request of the authority, and(b) for the provision of beneficial ownership information about a person incorporated in a relevant territory to a law enforcement authority of the United Kingdom at the request of the authority.(6) In this section—“beneficial ownership information” means information in relation to the beneficial ownership of persons incorporated in a part of the United Kingdom or (as the case may be) in a relevant territory;“exchange of notes” means written documentation signed on behalf of the government of the United Kingdom and the government of a relevant territory setting out details of the agreement reached in respect of the arrangements for the matters mentioned in subsection (5)(a) and (b);“relevant Minister” means the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office;“relevant territory” means any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or any British overseas territory.””
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I am again grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, and others for their amendment, which allows us to return to the important issue of company ownership transparency in the British Overseas Territories. As noble Lords will be aware, the Government have tabled their own amendment and I am pleased to have been able to discuss this with colleagues prior to today’s debate. The group also contains an amendment in the names of my noble friends Lord Faulks and Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, no doubt prompted by concerns about the abuse of the London property market. I intend to address this in my closing remarks.

Before I turn to the government amendments, I hope I might be allowed to detain noble Lords for a few moments while I reiterate certain important points on company ownership transparency in the British Overseas Territories and Crown dependencies. As part of our international efforts to increase corporate transparency, the Government continue to work closely with our overseas territories with financial centres to tackle money laundering, terrorist financing, corruption and fraud. In Committee, I described the exchanges of notes the UK signed last year with overseas territories with financial centres and with the Crown dependencies, setting out new arrangements on law enforcement access to beneficial ownership data.

These arrangements are due to be implemented by June this year. They will put the UK and the wider “British family” of the OTs and CDs well ahead of most jurisdictions in terms of transparency, including many of our G20 partners and other major corporate and financial centres, including some states in the US, and demonstrate our continued leadership. I reiterate that we should be proud of this fact and of the progress achieved. These arrangements will bring significant benefits in the capacity and information that UK law enforcement authorities will have at their disposal to tackle criminal activity and to investigate bribery and corruption, money laundering and tax evasion. They will prevent criminals hiding behind anonymous shell companies incorporated in the overseas territories and Crown dependencies, ensuring that these jurisdictions are not open to exploitation by those seeking to hide the proceeds of their crimes.

The UK has continued to work closely with the overseas territories on implementing the arrangements. Indeed, we arranged for the London representatives to attend a meeting in the House this morning so that noble Lords could hear about their progress at first hand. I am very pleased to report there have been some further positive developments since I provided an update in Committee which I will briefly share with noble Lords.

The British Virgin Islands will shortly introduce the beneficial ownership secure search Bill, which will be known as the BOSS Act 2017, to its House of Assembly. This will reinforce the existing process for sharing information with UK law enforcement authorities.

The newly elected Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands has confirmed that legislation will be introduced on an urgent basis to establish a central registry of beneficial ownership information in its existing companies registry, and to determine access to such information. She expects that the register can be established by the June 2017 deadline, albeit that it will take longer to populate the register fully with data on corporate and legal entities incorporated in the jurisdiction.

Montserrat had in fact committed in November 2015 to establish a public register of beneficial ownership. Although Montserrat is therefore not covered by the exchange of notes, we receive regular updates on its progress. Officials advise that a draft companies Bill will shortly be put to its Cabinet for approval.

The NCA has confirmed that it is already seeing enhanced co-operation from some overseas territories, with turnaround times for processing requests for information much shorter than previously. We expect to see this further improved to meet the agreed standards by June this year. This demonstrates what can be achieved by working consensually with the overseas territories and the Crown dependencies. It is reaping benefits and I believe that it will continue to do so.

Rather than imposing new requirements on the overseas territories, the Government believe that we should continue to work with them and to focus our efforts on the implementation of the existing arrangements, including the passage of new primary legislation in the territories and complex technological improvements. I know that noble Lords would like a timetable to be set for public registers. However, the Government respect the constitutional relationship with the overseas territories and the Crown dependencies. As previously noted, legislating for the overseas territories is something that we have done only very rarely, on issues such as abolition of the death penalty which raised issues of compliance with human rights obligations and thus areas for which the UK retains direct responsibility.

While tackling this kind of complex criminality and its consequences is extremely serious, there is a clear constitutional difference in that financial services is an area devolved to territory Governments. In the case of the Crown dependencies, the UK has never legislated for them without their consent. Doing so would be likely to lead to the territories withdrawing their current level of co-operation, jeopardising the progress made and the spirit of working in partnership that we have fostered with them. I hope that noble Lords will see that this is not a course of action we should take.

It is quite right that we should ensure that the territories’ existing commitments are effectively implemented and deliver real benefits for UK law enforcement—this point was emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in Committee. Following careful consideration, I have brought forward Amendments 8 and 32 to address the concerns raised by him and others. The amendments provide for a report to Parliament on the effectiveness of the bilateral arrangements in place between the UK and the Governments of the overseas territories with financial centres and the Crown dependencies on the exchange of beneficial ownership information.

As I noted in Committee, the Government are committed to following up on these arrangements to ensure that they deliver in practice. There is already provision in the exchange of notes agreements with the overseas territories and the Crown dependencies for reviews of the arrangements six months after they come into force—that is, on 31 December this year—and for further reviews annually thereafter. The arrangements also provide for continuous monitoring by both parties. However, placing a review of the first 18 months of operation of the arrangements on a statutory basis will provide further assurance that careful parliamentary scrutiny will be given to their effectiveness and demonstrate that they are being implemented properly, working effectively and meeting our law enforcement objectives.

As I have said previously, the UK is the only G20 country to have established a public register, and it is this Government’s long-term ambition that publicly accessible registers of beneficial ownership will in time become a global standard. At that point, we would expect the overseas territories and Crown dependencies to implement this standard. The government amendment includes provision that, in the review of the effectiveness of the arrangements, we can consider relevant international standards. This further demonstrates our intention to ensure that we and our overseas territories and Crown dependencies remain ahead of the curve on international standards and will continue to consider the bespoke arrangements set out in the exchange of notes in relation to those standards as they evolve.

Given that so many jurisdictions fail even to reach the standards set by the Financial Action Task Force for beneficial ownership transparency, it is right to focus our efforts on persuading others to up their game while ensuring that the overseas territories and the Crown dependencies deliver on what they have promised. We will of course continue to engage with partners through the key international groups such as the FATF and the OECD to increase levels of transparency worldwide.

I pay tribute to all noble Lords who campaigned on this issue. The fight against global corruption is a priority for the Government and we listened carefully to all those who made representations, not least the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, the noble Baronesses, Lady Stern, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. I hope that the House will recognise the strong rationale for the Government’s proposed approach and that noble Lords will be minded to accept the concessionary amendment we have proposed in light of our debates. I look forward to responding to noble Lords at the conclusion of the debate, when I will also seek to address the amendment in the name of my noble friends Lord Faulks and Lord Hodgson. I beg to move.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken so passionately on Amendments 8 and 14. I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, for all the work that she has done in promoting her Amendment 14. I also thank all noble Lords who attended the meeting with the overseas territory this morning. I hope they found it was useful and that they can see that progress is already being made.

I begin with Amendment 24 in the name of my noble friends Lord Faulks and Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, which would provide for the creation of a public register of beneficial ownership of foreign companies that own property in the UK. I am pleased to have the opportunity to return to this issue. The clear abuse of the London property market and high-value properties across the country—I was particularly interested to hear about the properties in Manchester—to launder money, including the proceeds of corruption, has to be stopped. We must not allow this city to be a haven for kleptocrats hiding their ill-gotten gains. That is why the Government share the ambition of creating such a register. As my noble friend Lord Faulks told us, on 5 April, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published a call for evidence on our proposed register and how it will work. In the call for evidence, the Government sought views on the design of the register and how it will interact with the UK property market to ensure that it is effective.

This policy enshrines the UK’s position as world leader in corporate transparency policy. However, as this register is novel and ambitious, its development should not be rushed. The UK will be considered world leading in this agenda only if the register works. The Government have therefore taken time to develop effective proposals and ensure that they deliver full transparency without creating undue burdens on business or adversely impact commercial property transactions. Publishing the call for evidence earlier this month demonstrated the Government’s ongoing commitment to this agenda. Subject to the outcome of the general election, it remains our intention to introduce legislation to create the register as soon as parliamentary time allows. I hope this provides my noble friends with the reassurances that they seek.

Moving back to the overseas territories and Crown dependencies, I welcome noble Lords’ recognition of the value of the Government’s amendments. They will help us to ensure that the jurisdictions successfully implement their commitments and that the UK law enforcement agencies can pursue investigations into money laundering and corruption as a result. As I have previously noted, a key feature of the Government’s approach is that it creates a level playing field between all the overseas territories with financial centres and the Crown dependencies. By taking a different approach to the Crown dependencies and overseas territories, the noble Baroness’s Amendment 14 would risk disrupting this level playing field, creating weaknesses in certain jurisdictions that could be exploited and damaging the spirit of co-operation we have been able to create between them. The Government’s amendment has the merit of treating all relevant overseas territories and the Crown dependencies on an equal basis, ensuring that they are held to the same standard and are subject to a level playing field.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked whether the information provided to UK law enforcement agencies can then be shared with operational partners in other countries, including those where grand corruption is rife. The exchange of notes are bilateral agreements with the overseas territories and Crown dependencies to enable the exchange of accurate and timely beneficial ownership information. On an operational case-by-case basis, and subject to each agency’s legal position, the UK agencies may share this information with operational partners in other countries. If a subsequent UK law enforcement investigation recovers property that relates to criminal activity or corruption in another country, we may also seek to return it to such a country under the terms of existing agreements or memoranda of understanding.

Noble Lords should also note that, if we were to impose legislation in a field of activity that is devolved to the overseas territories, we would need to ask ourselves to what degree we could ensure that such legislation would be implemented successfully in practice. Although Westminster has the legal power to legislate, enforcing practical implementation of legislation in this case would be fraught with difficulty. We could, in fact, significantly undermine the progress that we are making in return for little or no real benefit.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked what the review will cover. It will take into account the impact on law enforcement outcomes such as the number of cases concluded, the quality of evidence received and the overall impact on combating economic crime. He also asked whether there would be a debate in both Houses. He will understand that I cannot commit the next Government to scheduling a debate on the report but this will, of course, be a matter for business managers in due course. However, I am sure that interest in this issue will remain in both Houses and there would be considerable support for such a debate at the relevant time. Of course, there is no bar to such a debate being held in your Lordships’ House.

The noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, asked about data being provided to overseas territories being verified, and another noble Lord talked about verification. The UK’s persons with significant control register is publicly accessible and is accessed more than 1.2 billion times a year. This enables information to be cross-checked with other data sources to improve accuracy and the quality of information on an ongoing basis. This is the information which will be shared with overseas territories and Crown dependencies under the exchange of notes. The legislation that underpins the UK register includes its own statutory review clause, which will require its effectiveness to be reviewed and a report to be provided to Parliament by 2019.

My noble friend Lord Naseby asked which international standards would be considered for the statutory review. As he stated, the statutory review provided for in Amendment 8 will take into account evolving international standards such as new FATF standards. The UK will be assessed against the new FATF standards over the next 12 months. Other jurisdictions such as the overseas territories will be assessed at a later stage. While the exchange of notes is focused on improving law enforcement outcomes rather than emerging assessments against international standards, our review will, of course, take into account the wider context.

The Government have listened and brought forward a concessionary amendment. I hope noble Lords will be satisfied that the issue of company ownership transparency will remain a high priority in the next Parliament, and that the statutory review, which will be laid in Parliament, will ensure that this is the case. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness and my noble friends will feel inclined not to press their amendments.

Amendment 8 agreed.
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Moved by
10: Clause 10, page 37, line 34, leave out “28 days” and insert “84 days”
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Moved by
11: Clause 11, page 42, line 6, leave out “a senior National Crime Agency officer,” and insert “the Director General of the National Crime Agency or any other National Crime Agency officer authorised by the Director General (whether generally or specifically) for this purpose,”
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Lord Mendelsohn Portrait Lord Mendelsohn (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise briefly to speak in support of Amendment 13, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, and to which I have added my name. He has raised a very important point in relation to how the discount is applied and we are all very grateful to him. He has made a compelling case, and I should like to make a couple of comments in this context.

Since the financial crisis, $321 billion has been paid out globally in fines, compensation and legal costs, and the UK has contributed some $60 billion of that. KPMG reported in 2015 that, between 2011 and 2015, 60% of bank profits had been paid in fines, compensation and legal costs. Since the financial crisis in general, payouts in legal fees, fines, compensation and bonuses are basically equivalent to the entire profits generated, with all the consequences for shareholders, corporate governance, the reputation of the financial sector and losses to the taxpayer. At its very core, the attempt to deal with culture, conduct and, in some cases, apparent contempt for customers has lacked one key element: accountability. Using the discount to emphasise this element of accountability is one of the compelling parts of this proposal.

We on this side do not agree with the argument that the FCA is not up to the job; nor do I believe that it has not used its powers or that its procedures are flawed. The noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, has found a very important gap, which needs to be plugged: there is an incentive that does not work because there has been no downside. Even the FCA has moved towards the senior management regime to support the noble Lord’s central argument.

I, too, am grateful to the Minister for her openness and engagement and for the provision of officials—a quite copious amount of officials—to try to help address these sorts of matters. We have enjoyed those discussions and are looking forward to them continuing. Further openness on the cases where the discount has been applied would be extremely beneficial. As the FCA moves towards pursuing less significant fines, and has limited resources to both police and investigate, the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, is helpful in ensuring compliance, and places a sensible responsibility on the financial sector. It can mean that we can feel confident—and I hope that I am not tempting fate—that when the most egregious fines and compensation sums are probably now behind us, the lower aggregate level of cost does not allow us to believe that the industry is properly policed. Only the accountability and responsibility in this amendment will do so.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lords, Lord Mendelsohn and Lord Sharkey, for the time that they have taken in entering into discussions with me and officials and representatives of the FCA, both today and yesterday. The discussions were very helpful but, as the noble Lord said, we have more to go.

Amendment 13 basically requires the FCA, as the noble Lord has said, to withhold a proportion of the discount to a penalty applied to a financial firm until that firm has completed any internal disciplinary actions agreed in the settlement. I really welcome the noble Lord’s objective of improving compliance and the culture across the financial services sector. The Government share this objective and we have made significant progress in the area in recent years. We have, for example, introduced the senior managers and certification regime, to which the noble referred. This will, where appropriate, ensure that the FCA can take action against individuals where they are at fault. I know that the culture at firms is also a priority for the FCA, which has observed that it is both a key driver and a potential way of mitigating risk, and therefore plays a role in the achievement of its statutory objectives. The senior managers and certification regime is a key workstream in the FCA’s work programme on culture, as is the FCA’s focus on those aspects of remuneration policy that drive individual behaviour and culture.

Noble Lords spoke about disciplinary action to be taken against individuals working for firms. At the outset, I want to emphasise that if the FCA thinks that a disciplinary action should be taken against individuals, it can and does take action itself, as opposed to leaving it to the companies to do so. The FCA and other enforcement agencies have powers to fine individuals, or to take other action such as prohibiting them from continuing to operate in the financial services industry. This approach can be seen in a number of high-profile cases, including those involving LIBOR manipulation. The FCA settled eight cases with firms totalling £758 million. It is also conducting a number of separate enforcement actions against individuals. There have been seven completed actions against individuals in cases that involved settlements with firms in relation to LIBOR or Euribor, but others are still ongoing. More generally, the FCA issued fines against 64 individuals between 1 April 2013 and 24 March 2017 totalling £15.5 million. They might be the cases that the noble Lord was referring to. Many of these were connected to previously settled cases against firms, although I am afraid that I am unable to provide noble Lords with an exact number.

That said, the FCA also expects firms to consider what action they themselves should take. If a firm has not taken appropriate action by the time the FCA imposes a penalty on it, the FCA can increase the penalty as a result. We went through a lot of that today. I am saying that not for the benefit of the noble Lord, but mainly for the benefit of the House, because we have been through this. Of course, in appropriate circumstances, the FCA can impose a requirement that a firm consider further whether it needs to take any additional action to remedy the breaches identified.

The noble Lord asked me today whether it would be a better arrangement to have an automatic system of withholding a proportion of the discount, so as to make it directly in the interests of the firms to take the action that they are supposed to take, rather than the FCA having to make an assessment later of whether it ought to impose an additional penalty. I commend him on his ingenuity, but having consulted with operational partners and Treasury officials, the Government’s view is that the existing regime gives the FCA the flexibility to apply penalties and impose requirements on a case-by-case basis. It allows it to leverage those requirements wherever needed in order to ensure that the firm acts appropriately. While there might be options to enhance this approach and better achieve the outcomes that we all seek, we should be clear about the potential benefits before pursuing any such options. That is kind of where we left it today.

I trust that noble Lords will agree that we should not seek to reform or amend without exploring the implications, both the advantages and any unintended or undesirable consequences. For instance, we are concerned that this amendment would weaken the incentives for firms to settle early with the FCA, given that the settlement would not be final, subject to the full discount being granted. As a result, they might instead choose to engage the FCA in costly and protracted action rather than all being involved in focusing on remedying the underlying issues.

Moreover, further detailed consideration would need to be given as to how this amendment would interact with established principles of employment law. In particular, when a firm disciplines an individual, it needs to follow due process rather than agreeing in advance a predetermined course of action. For the amendment to work effectively, consideration would need to be given as to whether the FCA would need to be given a power to require firms to take such action against their employees; otherwise the amendment would put the FCA at risk of liability when undertaking the duty the amendment creates. Moreover, appropriate amendments would also need to be made to the Employment Rights Act 1996 to ensure that such action does not give rise to unfair dismissal claims by relevant employees against their firms. It is also not clear whether the proposed approach would be the best way of achieving the aim of improving the culture of firms.

In summary, we can all agree that this an extremely complex issue, which seemed to be made even more complex as discussions went on today. We share the same objectives of improving compliance and the culture in the banking sector. Ultimately, the FCA already has significant powers to address the issues underlying the noble Lords’ amendment, not least the power to sanction relevant employees in appropriate circumstances. I trust that the House will see that it is far from clear that the amendment would deliver the positive outcomes that have been described. That being said, I found the discussions today to be very interesting, as did the relevant officials, and hope this has been an equally insightful discussion to the two noble Lords. There might be ways of enhancing the existing regulatory system; the FCA is, in fact, conducting a review of its penalties policy at present, and I know that it would welcome the opportunity to continue this discussion with both noble Lords.

I can confirm that, subject to the outcome of the election, I expect that the Government will consider how best to facilitate further discussions on this issue, and, as I outlined to the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, this would be my intention. I am very grateful to the noble Lords for their amendment. However, I ask them to withdraw it so that action not be taken in haste. I hope they feel comfortable to do so following some of the undertakings I have given.

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Moved by
15: Clause 28, page 87, line 29, at end insert—
“( ) After section 245 insert—“245ZA Notice to local authority: Scotland(1) This section applies if, in proceedings under this Chapter for a recovery order, the enforcement authority applies under section 266(8ZA) for decree of removing and warrant for ejection in relation to heritable property which consists of or includes a dwellinghouse.(2) The enforcement authority must give notice of the application to the local authority in whose area the dwellinghouse is situated.(3) Notice under subsection (2) must be given in the form and manner prescribed under section 11(3) of the Homelessness etc.(Scotland) Act 2003.(4) In this section—“dwellinghouse” has the meaning given by section 11(8) of the Homelessness etc.(Scotland) Act 2003;“local authority” means a council constituted under section 2 of the Local Government etc.(Scotland) Act 1994; and “area”, in relation to a local authority, means the local government area for which the authority is constituted.””
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Moved by
17: Clause 33, page 90, line 39, at end insert—
“(f) it is the forfeitable property in relation to an order under paragraph 10I(1) of that Schedule.””
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Another key point made in Committee was on the need for the independence of anti-money laundering supervisors and on addressing the issue of the same body having both a representative and regulatory function, with the potential, if not the reality, for conflicts of interest. I simply ask: is that an issue that the Government are seeking to address by removing any perception there could be of such conflicts of interest? I will listen with interest to the Government’s response to the amendments we are discussing—albeit I accept that I have come from a very different direction from that of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts.
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts on neatly batting off the question asked by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss—I could not resist; we have all made cricket jokes. I thank noble Lords for their interest in the outcomes of the Government’s recent review of the anti-money laundering supervisory regime. As a result of this review, the FCA has agreed to create a new team—the office for professional body anti-money laundering supervision, otherwise known as OPBAS—to strengthen the regime and help to ensure that professional body AML supervisors, such as the Law Society and the Institute for Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, comply with their obligations in the money laundering regulations. It is important to note that OPBAS will be a new team hosted in the FCA and is not in itself a new regulatory body.

Amendment 22 would require that the FCA would have powers to directly monitor and advise all practitioners subject to criminal finances legislation. This would be a significant extension of the FCA’s responsibilities. Rather, our intention is that the FCA’s new objective will be carefully targeted to address weaknesses identified through last year’s call for information, while preserving the existing strengths of the regime by focusing on helping to ensure that professional body AML supervisors comply with their obligations in the money laundering regulations. The noble Lords’ proposals would duplicate the role that existing AML supervisors play in safeguarding the UK’s financial system and would increase unnecessary burdens on businesses.

Amendment 21 would also require the FCA to have regard to regulatory best practice principles in delivering its new objective. However, I assure the House that the FCA will comply with its existing governance and safeguards as it goes about delivering its objective. As such, this amendment would be redundant and duplicate existing requirements on the FCA.

Lastly, Amendment 20 would require the powers the Government will pass to the FCA to fulfil this objective to be subject to an affirmative statutory instrument. It is our intention that this will instead be achieved in line with existing precedent; previous regulations to grant similar powers to the FCA have been subject to the negative procedure. I hope colleagues agree that we should follow that precedent on this occasion. Subject to the outcome of the general election, the Government intend to publish draft regulations for consultation over the summer before laying the relevant secondary legislation to underpin OPBAS later in the year.

To pick up on some specific points noble Lords have raised, my noble friend Lord Hodgson talked about de-risking being excessive and impacting disproportionately on normal people, as he has previously. He gave some compelling examples. The Government encourage the financial sector to take a proportionate approach based on the risks faced. Guidance for the financial sector, which is written by industry, is being updated for the latest money laundering regulations and is open for consultation until the end of this week. It is of course open to my noble friend to make his views known through this process.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked why the Government are not splitting the supervisory and advocacy functions of professional body supervisors. I can advise him that the 2017 money laundering regulations, which transpose the fourth money laundering directive, will require all professional body anti-money laundering supervisors to ensure that their supervisory functions are exercised independently of the advocacy functions, including, for example, the Law Society and the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

The noble Lord also made the point that the Government are subverting scrutiny by using the negative procedure. As I have mentioned, providing the FCA with new powers via the negative procedure is not new. It is in line with the wider transposition of the fourth anti-money laundering directive. There are a number of other powers that have been conferred to the FCA by the negative procedure. For example, the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 and the Money Laundering (Amendment) Regulations 2012 provide the FCA with powers to oversee financial institutions’ compliance with the money laundering regulations. The current set of MLRs provide the FCA with supervisory powers to oversee financial institutions’ compliance with the money laundering regulations. These include enforcement powers and supervision powers.

I am very grateful to the noble Lords for allowing me to address their points, which I hope I have. I hope, on that note, they will feel happy not to press their amendments.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Portrait Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts
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My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, for her helpful intervention and my noble friend for her very full response. There is a really serious issue here that needs to be tackled. It is not just about bureaucracy and cost, but about unnecessary interference with people’s lives. Increasingly, it is also about damage to this country’s reputation as a place where you can get clarity. The question will be whether the new body can bring focus. The proof of that pudding will be in the eating. We shall have to wait to see whether it happens. My noble friend encouraged me to make my views known to the review. She need not worry; I have not missed that opportunity. I have written a letter already, so it has my views. We will have to see how it develops, but it will require vigilance, focus and care by the FCA to improve the regime, which is currently not working as well as it should. With that, to continue the cricket analogy, I will return to the pavilion and withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I support what the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, has said in setting out the case for her amendment. She has already made reference to recent further examples of serious concern over the approach to whistleblowing and whistleblowers—she referred specifically to the situation at Barclays Bank in the light of apparent actions by its chief executive in seeking to unmask a whistleblower. There are meant to be strict regulations in the financial services industry for encouraging and protecting whistleblowers, but it does not look as though they are very effective.

It is difficult to believe that the apparent attitude at the top of Barclays Bank is an exceptional one-off, as opposed to being indicative of a rather more widespread culture, to which the noble Baroness referred, in the financial services sector. The reality is that whistleblowers will not come forward if they think that the reaction of the people at the top will be to try to find out who they are rather than investigate the issue to which they have drawn attention. Neither will people come forward if they think that being identified as a whistleblower will jeopardise their future employment prospects in the financial services sector, which is alleged to be the reality in that sector in particular. I hope that the Government in response will be able to offer something more than claims that existing arrangements and procedures address the concerns raised by this amendment, when it is clear that it is not the case.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for bringing forward this amendment, which would introduce new regulations so that the FCA could undertake the administration of arrangements to facilitate whistleblowing in the financial sector.

The FCA is already a prescribed person in relation to the financial sector. It actively promotes the whistleblowing framework to employees and employers in the sector so that prospective whistleblowers know where to turn and firms have appropriate internal whistleblowing policies in place. Other prescribed persons related to financial services include the Bank of England, the Serious Fraud Office, the Financial Reporting Council and the Prudential Regulation Authority. To each of them, whistleblowers will be one of several sources of information and intelligence about potential malpractice in support of their regulatory activities.

The Government believe that the right body to investigate the concerns of a whistleblower is the body that regulates the issue about which concerns are raised—I know I have said that before. That body is in the best position to see the disclosure in context; for example, to judge the seriousness of the allegations, to make connections with any related investigations under way and to consider whether some regulatory action is appropriate to prevent occurrence.

The amendment that the noble Baroness proposes would introduce a power to award compensation to any worker voluntarily providing information on wrongdoing to organisations in the financial sector. As I set out in Committee, we do not think that money is the main motivator for genuine whistleblowers. I do not think the noble Baroness thinks so either, but she expressed views on how a financial incentive system to encourage whistleblowing works well in the US. I can advise noble Lords that the FCA and Prudential Regulation Authority whistleblowing management teams visited the US in late 2013. At the time, there was limited empirical evidence of incentives leading to an increase in the number or quality of disclosures received by regulators. Introducing incentives would require a complex and costly governance structure.

Incentives could also undermine effective internal whistleblowing mechanisms, a requirement the FCA introduced in September 2016 for banks, insurers and deposit takers. If the FCA were to incentivise whistleblowers to report to the regulator, it could discourage them from reporting internally within their firms. It would risk delivering mixed messages by encouraging firms to set up costly systems which it then undermines by incentivising whistleblowers to disclose directly to the FCA. However, the FCA is considering reviewing the case for incentivisation again in financial year 2017-18. I would be happy to provide an update following that review.

The amendment also contains a provision with regard to retaliatory action against whistleblowers. I reiterate and reassure noble Lords that such a provision is unnecessary. Workers who have evidence that their employer has provided a negative reference, have been unfairly dismissed or have otherwise suffered detriment for making a public interest disclosure already have a route to seek compensation against their employer through an employment tribunal.

Some concerns were raised that we have seen a decline in the number of whistleblowing cases for the second year in a row, from 1,340 in 2014-15, to 1,014 in 2015-16 and 900 in 2016-17. The FCA does not have a target for the numbers of whistleblowing reports. Its aim is simply to ensure that those who prefer to report to an independent body know about its role and that, if they need to take the often difficult step of reporting on an employer, they and their information will be treated sensitively and professionally. New rules came into force in September 2016 that require banks, building societies and insurers to have internal whistleblowing arrangements in place and to appoint an internal champion. We understand many firms began to implement these measures earlier than the commencement date, so we believe that this has affected the numbers going directly to the FCA. This is a positive message as many complaints are resolved earlier and without regulatory intervention, or lead to self-reports by firms themselves.

I want to address one point made by the noble Baroness: how we became aware of the issue regarding the investigation of the whistleblower’s identity by the CEO of Barclays and what action the FCA is taking. I recognise the concern that the noble Baroness raised about the Barclays example and I agree that behaviour of the kind she described does not serve the reputation of the industry nor the interests of the country. We must do all we can to prevent this type of behaviour. As the noble Baroness said, I realise that time is short but this issue is not going away. I ask whether she would be amenable to withdrawing her amendment, fully aware that I will hear more about the subject after the general election, should the outcome return a Conservative Government.

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Moved by
25: Clause 53, page 119, line 1, at end insert “section 28 or”
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Moved by
28: Clause 54, page 119, line 43, leave out from “that” to “consult” in line 45 and insert “deals with a transferred matter”
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Moved by
32: Clause 57, page 122, line 11, at end insert—
“( ) section (Sharing of beneficial ownership information);”
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Moved by
33: Schedule 5, page 165, line 18, after “303O(3)” insert “, 303R(3)”
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Moved by
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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That the Bill be now read a third time.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I am not sure whether I should come in now but I just take this opportunity to thank the Minister and her ministerial colleagues in the Bill team for their willingness to meet and engage in what have been constructive and helpful discussions on not only provisions that are in the Bill but also provisions that are not, since it is with the latter that most differences of view or approach have centred. I also thank my Front-Bench colleagues for their hard work, not least—although he is not in his place—my noble friend Lord Kennedy of Southwark, who has not been exactly short of commitments in respect of other Bills as well. Finally, I thank the staff in our own office, not least Grace Wright, for their help and advice in navigating our way through this Bill.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee
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My Lords, I echo those thanks to the Minister and the Bill team. As several people have said—most frequently the noble Lord, Lord Rosser —it is what is not in the Bill that has exercised us most. I can see an enormous amount of material for Private Members’ Bill in the next Session if we do not have government Bills that we can tack our—“demands” would be the wrong word—concerns on to. But the Minister has done an absolutely sterling job and I hope she gets five minutes to have a bit of a rest before she sets out campaigning. We have the luxury of knowing that we will be back to pursue these interests.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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As always with Bills such as this, it is what is not in the Bill. Also, sometimes we should have gone further. But we have had a challenge in this Bill and in the main the challenge has been lack of time, not of consensus. I place on record my thanks to the Front Benches—the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Kennedy, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Kramer and Lady Hamwee—and my noble friends behind me, who have kept me on my toes. I thank noble Lords for being so accommodating about having so little time to get through the business of the past 24 hours.

Motion agreed.