HC Deb 03 July 1980 vol 987 cc1742-3
3. Mr. Edward Lyons

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will seek to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, having regard to the recent House of Lords judgment dealing with the proceeds of crime in the "Operation Julie" drugs case; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Brittan

The implications of this judgment are not confined to the Misuse of Drugs Act. We are considering what changes in the law may be required.

Mr. Lyons

In view of the startling incapacity of the English law at present to recover by order the ill-gotten gains of criminal offences, will the Minister introduce a simple Bill enabling courts to have the general power to recover gains of this kind? Failing that, will he introduce an interim measure to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act to cover offences of conspiracy and also to cover the profits from drug offences?

Mr. Brittan

I do not think that the problem can be dealt with in a simple way because it is a complex matter. The hon. and learned Member is not doing justice to the existing powers. In most cases the power to fine, which is unlimited in Crown courts, and the power to make compensation orders can deal with these problems. Of course, there are also substantial powers for the enforcement of orders to that effect. None the less, I agree that the judgment of the House of Lords shows a particular problem in a particular area and that is something that we must look at.

Mr. Speaker

I appeal for shorter questions and answers.

Sir William Clark

In view of the fact that, presumably, these ill-gotten gains were not returned for tax purposes, will my hon. and learned Friend have a word with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in order to see whether three times the tax that is due, or whatever the liability is, could be levied on them? That would mean that the Exchequer would receive all these ill-gotten gains.

Mr. Brittan

I understand that the Inland Revenue is alert to these implications.