HC Deb 02 July 1986 vol 100 cc1132-4

Lords amendments: No. 23, in page 6, line 15, leave out "or".

Mr. Mellor

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 24, 41, 44, 53, 82, 93, 97 to 102, 119 to 125, 127 to 130, 138, 139, 162, 163, 180, 182, and 185.

Mr. Mellor

In deference to our friends from the north—

Mr. Corbett

Not just from the north, but from Scotland

Mr. Mellor

Indeed, even Scotland.

I should like to make a few points in commendation of the amendments. Their main effect is to provide that restraint and confiscation orders made by courts in England and Wales can be registered in the Court of Session and he enforced by the court against assets held in Scotland. Receivers appointed under the Bill will be able to exercise their powers in Scotland. Scottish police and customs officers will have the same powers in relation to the investigation of drug trafficking as their colleagues in England and Wales. The amendments also regulate the relationship between drug trafficking proceedings and Scottish sequestrations in the same way as the amendments that we shall consider shortly, which deal with insolvency in England and Wales.

The provisions ensure that Scotland does not become a haven for the assets of drug traffickers operating south of the border in the period before its own separate legislation is introduced. That legislation, in its turn, will contain similar provisions for the enforcement of orders made by Scottish courts against assets held in England and Wales.

Mr. Keith Raffan (Delyn)

As the hon. Member for Glasgow. Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) will remember, we entered into an exchange during the Queen's Speech debate, when he said that Scots law was ahead of English law. He will be as concerned as I am now to ensure, particularly as he once represented part of the city in which I was born and was once my Member of Parliament, that Scots law does not lag behind English law. That is basically the point that I want to raise with the Minister.

Although, by the amendment, we are preventing Scotland from becoming a refuge for people trafficking in drugs in England, I am concerned that the other way round does not still apply and that effective cross-border co-operation is still only one way. I want my hon. Friend the Minister to confirm that cross-border co-operation will be both ways. I am sure that the hon. Member for Garscadden will endorse my second point wholeheartedly. It is also important that the separate legislation to be brought into Scots law is brought in as soon as possible in the next Session.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

I do not know whether the hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan) is an asset that we have exported from Scotland, but, if so, I am prepared to put up with the prospect of permanent alienation.

I regret to say that I have not given much attention to the Bill, because it is largely English. The Minister has just confirmed that the clauses that affect Scotland, although they are formidably long and there are many references to them in the Lords amendments, cover the enforcement of English confiscation orders by the Scottish courts. It will ensure that there is no escape clause or refuge which would allow someone to shift into Scotland assets produced by this unfortunate and wicked trade and to escape orders that may be made against him south of the border. I presume that this thicket of amendments merely achieves that, and at this time of night — especially in the presence of the Deputy Chief Whip, who is looking distinctly tired at the sight of me at the Dispatch Box— I shall not discuss the Scots law of sequestration.

Perhaps the Minister can help us with the point made by the hon. Member for Delyn. As he no doubt knows, we are in a curious position in Scotland. He will have followed the debates on the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1985, which introduced punitive fines based upon putative profits in drug trading, which was put on the statute book only a year or 18 months ago. In the long and difficult debate about the criteria which the courts should apply in deciding how to compute those fines, Scottish Ministers made it clear that confiscation orders would not be possible in Scots law for some time. They gave us many plausible explanations, including the long digestion period and the amount of research that would have to be done, for proceeding down the fines route.

Will the Minister give us an assurance that the Scottish Office has changed its mind on that point? If so, we can expect legislation parallel to this in Scotland. But it is a complete change of course, because we were told during proceedings on that Act that it would be impractical and impossible. It is important that the Minister clears up that point, so that we know where we stand.

Mr. Mellor

I am delighted that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) should have intervened, in a brief cameo role, in our proceedings. It is as though Lord Olivier had wandered into a dog food commercial. His presence tonight is touching.

I must express momentary satisfaction, after three and a half years as a Home Office Minister always being told how perfect Scots law is, that for one brief flicker of time we are ahead of the Scots. That is at least something. But I understand that Scottish legislation will be introduced next Session. The hon. Gentleman would not expect me to put myself forward as an authority on precisely what it will contain, but I am given to understand that it will mirror the proposals contained in this Bill, and I shall draw the attention of my colleagues in the Scottish Office to the hon. Gentleman's points. They will wish to curb his loquacity next Session, and the best way to do that is for me to agree with him now.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.

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