HC Deb 26 February 2002 vol 380 cc609-30

'(1) This section applies where a confiscation order has been made in relation to any person and the prosecutor or the Director (as the case may be) has not satisfied the court that the person's interest in his family home has been acquired as a benefit from his criminal conduct.

(2) Where this section applies, then, before the receiver disposes of any right or interest in the person's family home he shall—

  1. (a) obtain the relevant consent; or
  2. (b) where he is unable to do so, apply to the court for authority to carry out the disposal.

(3) On an application being made to it under subsection (2)(b), the court, after having regard to all the circumstances of the case including—

  1. (a) the needs and financial resources of the spouse or former spouse of the person concerned;
  2. (b) the needs and financial resources of any child of the family;
  3. (c) the length of the period during which the family home has been used as a residence by any of the persons referred to in paragraph (a) or (b),
may refuse to grant the application or may postpone the granting of the application for such period (not exceeding 12 months) as it may consider reasonable in the circumstances or may grant the application subject to such conditions as it may prescribe.

(4) Subsection (3) shall apply to an action for the purpose of obtaining vacant possession of that home in order to dispose of it brought by the receiver as it applies to an application under subsection (2)(b) and, for the purposes of this subsection, any reference in subsection (3) to the granting of the application shall be construed as a reference to the granting of the relief sought in the action.

(5) In this section— family home", in relation to any person (in this subsection referred to as "the relevant person") means any property in which the relevant person has or had (whether alone or in common with any other person) a right or interest, being property which is occupied as a residence by the relevant person and his or her spouse or by the relevant person's spouse or former spouse (in any case with or without a child of the family) or by the relevant person with a child of the family; child of the family" includes any child or grandchild of either the relevant person or his or her spouse or former spouse, and any person who has been treated by either the relevant person or his or her spouse or former spouse as if he or she were a child of the relevant person, spouse or former spouse, whatever the age of such a child, grandchild or person may be; and relevant consent" means in relation to the disposal of any right or interest in a family home—

  1. (a) in a case where the family home is occupied by the spouse or former spouse of the relevant person, the consent of the spouse or, as the case may be, of the former spouse, whether or not the family home is also occupied by the relevant person;
  2. (b) where paragraph (a) does not apply, in a case where the family home is occupied by the relevant person with a child of the family, the consent of the relevant person.'.—[Mr. Grieve.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Grieve

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 3— Disposal of family home: Northern Ireland— '(1) This section applies where a confiscation order has been made in relation to any person and the prosecutor or the Director (as the case may be) has not satisfied the court that the person's interest in his family home has been acquired as a benefit from his criminal conduct. (2) Where this section applies, then, before the receiver disposes of any right or interest in the person's family home he shall—

  1. (a) obtain the relevant consent; or
  2. (b) where he is unable to do so, apply to the court for authority to carry out the disposal.
(3) On an application being made to it under subsection (2)(b), the court, after having regard to all the circumstances of the case including—
  1. (a) the needs and financial resources of the spouse or former spouse of the person concerned;
  2. (b) the needs and financial resources of any child of the family;
  3. (c) the length of the period during which the family home has been used as a residence by any of the persons referred to in paragraph (a) or (b),
may refuse to grant the application or may postpone the granting of the application for such period (not exceeding 12 months) as it may consider reasonable in the circumstances or may grant the application subject to such conditions as it may prescribe.
(4) Subsection (3) shall apply to an action for the purpose of obtaining vacant possession of that home in order to dispose of it brought by the receiver as it applies to an application under subsection (2)(b) and, for the purposes of this subsection, any reference in subsection (3) to the granting of the application shall be construed as a reference to the granting of the relief sought in the action. (5) In this section— family home", in relation to any person (in this subsection referred to as "the relevant person") means any property in which the relevant person has or had (whether alone or in common with any other person) a right or interest, being property which is occupied as a residence by the relevant person and his or her spouse or by the relevant person's spouse or former spouse (in any case with or without a child of the family) or by the relevant person with a child of the family. child of the family" includes any child or grandchild of either the relevant person or his or her spouse or former spouse, and any person who has been treated by either the relevant person or his or her spouse or former spouse as if he or she were a child of the relevant person, spouse or former spouse, whatever the age of such a child, grandchild or person may be; and relevant consent" means in relation to the disposal of any right or interest in a family home—
  1. (a) in a case where the family home is occupied by the spouse or former spouse of the relevant person, the consent of the spouse or, as the case may be, of the former spouse, whether or not the family home is also occupied by the relevant person;
  2. (b) where paragraph (a) does not apply, in a case where the family home is occupied by the relevant person with a child of the family, the consent of the relevant person.'.
Amendment No. 207, in clause 101, page 60, line 29, at end insert— '(bb) the needs and financial resources of a person of the same sex as the person concerned, who is and has been for a period of not less than six months, living with the person concerned in a relationship which has the characteristics, other than that the persons are of the same sex, of the relationship between husband and wife; (bc) the needs and financial resources of any member of the person concerned's family who is and has been, for a period of not less than six months, living with the person concerned in the family home.'. Amendment No. 208, in page 60, line 31, leave out "or (b)" and insert "(b), (bb) or (bc)".

Amendment No. 209, in page 60, line 35, at end insert— '(3A) Before granting an application under subsection (3) above, the court must take into account representations made to it by any of the persons referred to in paragraphs (a), (b), (bb) or (bc) of subsection (3); (3B) In making representations under subsection (3A), any of the persons referred to in paragraphs (a), (b), (bb) and (bc) of subsection (3) shall be entitled to appear before the court.'. Amendment No. 210, in page 61, line 5, at end insert— 'or by the relevant person with a person of the same sex as the relevant person in terms of subsection (3)(bb) or by the relevant person with a member of his family in terms of subsection (3)(bc).'. Amendment No. 211, in page 61, line 20, at end insert—

  1. '(c) where the family home is occupied by the relevant person and a person of the same sex as the relevant person in terms of subsection (3)(bb), the consent of the same sex partner;
  2. (d) in a case where the family home is occupied by the relevant person and a member of his family in terms of subsection (3)(bc), the consent of the member of his family.'.

Mr. Grieve

When we considered the Bill's confiscation provisions in Committee, it was noted that the provisions for Scotland, which were otherwise being brought into uniformity with those for England, Wales and Northern Ireland through the Government's amendments, remained entirely different in one respect—that is, the safeguards for the disposal of the family home in the event of the various assumptions being made.

During the debate, as the Minister of State, Scotland Office, the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), may recall—I could refer him to the relevant passages in Hansard, but I do not want to take up an excessive amount of the House's time—he emphasised the issue of the different regimes that would exist in Scotland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom. He provided the Committee with interesting historical background on why the safeguards for the family home existed in the Scottish system.

The official Opposition did not try to amend the sections on England, Wales and Northern Ireland to include a similar provision, but the Minister undertook—on behalf of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth)—to consider whether uniformity was desirable for the purposes of safeguarding the interests of spouses or former spouses or the needs and financial resources of any child of the family. However, nothing has happened. I am not criticising the Minister, but I shall be interested to hear why he feels that no further change is necessary.

When I considered the matter before this debate, I found myself inexorably drawn to what I must assume is the opposite conclusion from that of the Minister: that there are compelling reasons for introducing a similar safeguard under the England and Wales regime to that which existed for Scotland, and likewise for Northern Ireland. I shall explain why.

During consideration of the Bill in Committee, I accepted that the equitable jurisdiction that applies in English courts when dealing with property, especially property that may be occupied by a spouse or a child, may provide certain safeguards that would mean that if the spouse could show that in the course of the marriage she had acquired an equitable share in the property, it is possible that that part of the property might not be seized. I use the word "possible" advisedly, because it is not easy to reconcile the ordinary principles of an equitable jurisdiction with a criminal confiscatory mechanism, as stipulated in part 2.

During that debate in the 15th sitting of the Committee, the Minister accepted that the principal responsibility of the court, once the assumption had been made, was to realise the assets, and that must include confiscating the family home.

The matter becomes particularly obvious and glaring in the different regimes that will now exist north and south of the border, as is shown by subsection (1) of new clause 2. It is immediately clear that, under the regime in Scotland, the reversal of the burden of proof that arises when the assumptions are made will not apply if one of the objects of seizure is the family home. The burden will remain on the prosecutor to show that the family home specifically has been acquired as a benefit from the criminal conduct.

6.30 pm

Of course, if that specific trigger arises, no protection will be afforded under the Scottish provisions to the wife, former spouse or the children who live in the house. However, if that trigger cannot be fulfilled, there is no reverse burden on the defendant at that point and the court may be able to consider all the circumstances set out in clause 101 in relation to Scotland. The court can postpone seizure or decide that in no circumstances would it be reasonable to allow the family home to be seized at any time. That seems to be a sensible and compelling safeguard, which could ultimately lead to the removal of serious risks of injustice and the perception of injustice. Clearly, that has been thought a very sensible measure in the Scottish jurisdiction, which is why it was introduced with other confiscatory mechanisms in the mid-1990s.

The more I consider the issue, the more convinced I become that no similar safeguard will exist under current rules in England and Wales or in Northern Ireland. I have become increasingly concerned that we shall end up with a system that diverges considerably north and south of the border—the very thing that the Minister said when arguing on the provisions for Scotland he wanted to get rid of; he wanted to produce uniformity. Also, we run the risk of it being said that the system in England and Wales is unjust. I have to tell the Minister, bluntly, that I cannot help thinking that the other possible outcome is that a far greater burden will be placed on the state through the social security system than might otherwise be the case.

The more I have thought about the issue, the more convinced I have become that there is every reason to include similar safeguards for the wife, former spouse or child in England and Wales and in Northern Ireland to those that exist in Scotland. I am prepared to be talked out of my position if the Minister can persuade me that similar safeguards that would have the same result exist south of the border. I do not wish to take up too much time because there is a lot of other business to discuss, but that is a very important point. I am sorry that we did not have more time to focus on this issue in Committee.

This shows that, however carefully legislation is considered, there is always a further opportunity to find something else to do when we consider it again. Perhaps this matter can be dealt with in the other place if the new clauses and amendments that I have tabled are not sufficient.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)

Would new clause 2 or the Bill allow the director to apply to the court for a charge on the matrimonial property that can hang there while the wife, spouse or any children need the house?

Mr. Grieve

The answer to my hon. and learned Friend's question is no, because the purpose of the provision is to produce a mandatory ratchet system, by which, when the assumptions have been arrived at, confiscation must follow. There is one possible caveat: confiscation may not take place if there is a serious risk of injustice. I am always a little anxious about what that term means. In any event, I am not 100 per cent. certain that it relates to the status of the spouse, former spouse or child. The Minister may choose to correct me if I am wrong, but that term seems to relate to the possibility that the asset may have been wrongly identified as resulting from criminal conduct and thus should not be seized.

The Minister may be able to provide some reassurance about that, but I have to tell my hon. and learned Friend that I do not find the issue at all clear because we are, in fact, dealing with legislation that relates to the confiscation of criminal assets. So such a safeguard may exist, and it may be possible to beef it up even further by going down the road proposed by the Human Rights Committee, which suggests that we should use the term "real risk of injustice" instead of the term "serious risk of injustice". All those things are interconnected in reality.

In short, I need to hear some compelling reasons why England and Wales should not have the same protection as that which the Government have been happy to provide north of the border. They should accept new clause 2, which I have adapted, I hope correctly, to make it sensible in English, rather than Scots, law. I wait to hear from the Minister on this important issue.

Mr. Carmichael

I have a broad degree of sympathy with the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) on new clause 2. It would be ungenerous if we did not afford to the English the same protection as that given to the Scots, although that is often the case in any event. However, I do not know enough about English property law to comment on new clause 2 in any great depth, so I merely seek to bring to the House's attention amendments Nos. 207 to 211, tabled by my hon. Friends the Members for Lewes (Norman Baker) and for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mrs. Brooke) and myself.

Under amendment No. 207, which has the greatest substance—the other amendments are essentially consequential—we would afford to third parties who are in same-sex relationships the same protection as that given to spouses, former spouses and siblings who may have lived in the family home of the person against whom the confiscation order is made. There may be circumstances in which it is necessary to consider the needs and financial resources of the other members of the family who have resided with the accused in the family home. For example, siblings could have resided together in a house that is owned jointly, and it would be inappropriate to disregard the needs or interests of one party because the other is subject to confiscation proceedings under the Bill.

The point that I seek to make is one of general policy and principle. In 2002, there seems to be no good reason why the rights and interests in law of people in same-sex relationships should not be afforded the same protection in relation to their family homes as that given to spouses and former spouses. Of course, I readily concede that there are some difficulties with the definition of the relationships that might qualify.

I fully accept that six months is essentially an arbitrary choice, and other hon. Members may disagree about whether it is appropriate. It may be felt to be too short, but I remind the House that the court will still need to be satisfied that there is proof that the relationship exists and is worthy of the envisaged protection. The less time that the relationship has existed, the greater the difficulty in proving in court that it has existed. I draw a parallel with the Scots view on marriage by cohabitation with habit and repute, which has established a substantial case history in which it has been found that such relationships exist in law in some circumstances, but not in others. A general theme throughout the Bill, on which the Liberal Democrats have been happy to support the Government, is that fairly significant curtailments will take place of what would otherwise be regarded as civil liberties and human rights. If the Bill is to be effective and maintain public sympathy and support—which is crucial to the broader aims of the Bill in terms of the prosecution of crime and the promotion of law and order—it is particularly important that the interests of all third parties should be protected. We have identified a classification gap in relation to people who will not be protected.

John Robertson

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that amendment No. 207 might have fitted better if it were inserted into subsection (3)(a), which refers to spouses and former spouses? Perhaps the word "partner" might have been added. Although I support the hon. Gentleman's intention, that might have been a better approach.

Mr. Carmichael

That would be an option. Without proper consideration, I would not like to say, on the hoof, whether the amendment would fit as neatly where the hon. Gentleman suggests as it does in its current place. However, I welcome his support for the broad principle of our proposal. I reiterate that what is important is that we are seen to give equal credence to the rights of those in same-sex relationships. By taking a more imaginative and bolder step, we might set precedents for the reform of other aspects of property law, particularly in relation to providing protection for people who are in abusive and violent relationships, which can be same-sex as well as mixed-sex relationships. If we are seen to take seriously the rights of every group that stands to be disadvantaged, the Bill will be much better regarded by the community.

Vera Baird (Redcar)

When a home is not part of the proceeds of crime and the family are innocent of all crime, there should simply be a power for a court to protect them from confiscation by refusing or postponing its sale, if that is just. I echo what the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) said about the absence of any other kind of protection in English land law if the Bill provides no protection. I, too, have thought long and hard about whether the Government's statement that there was no need for such protection was accurate. However, I cannot find any way in which the rights of innocent families can be protected unless it is expressed in this statute.

I accept totally that it is right to seize the expensive mansion with swimming pool in the home counties that is owned by a man who has a dog called Brinks and another called Mat. I also accept entirely the right to confiscate cheap houses—the only type of house available in Redcar—as drug dealers live in them, and they should not be subsidised by their lifestyle. Nobody suggests that that power should not exist and should not be strong; it exists and it will remain.

However, a house is not just a piece of property; it is a home. There may be children between the ages of one and five living there, who do not have a clue that their father is a criminal. What is the difficulty in obliging authorities to obtain the court's sanction to sell in such a situation, therefore obliging the court to balance the interests of the family? If the interests of the family require the court to postpone the sale or outlaw it altogether, it does not diminish one iota the power of the statute to take the proceeds of crime away. It is a way of entrusting a decision to the judiciary. The judiciary will not allow the power to be abused—it makes decisions in other important areas of this Bill so why should it not do so in this one?

6.45 pm

The Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I am a member, considered the absence of protection for a family in the Bill and wrote to the Home Office raising queries. I do not do the reply an injustice by saying that it asserted that anyone who had a property interest in a home could be protected. That is right. As I have said, however, property rights are not the end of the matter. I am not speaking merely about the obvious justice of protecting families, because there is now a legal duty to protect family life.

Article 8 of the European convention on human rights provides a right to family life, which, in a democratic society, must not be interfered with unless it is necessary. Under the Bill, such interference would be for the prevention of crime. However, the difficulty is that the Bill does not provide an opportunity for the interests of the family to be weighed when the balance is struck as to whether it is justifiable to intrude—I hope that I am making myself clear. There must be an opportunity for those interests to be brought into play. Unless that point is specified, there will be no such opportunity.

The Home Office's reply to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which is appended to the 11th report of the Committee, stated: Even where it cannot be shown that the family home was, itself, obtained from the proceeds of crime, the receiver may sell it because this is necessary in order to satisfy the confiscation order … The need to ensure that criminals do not retain the benefit of their offending outweighs the interests of innocent family members in staying in their home. The family members will not be prevented from living together elsewhere and, if left without funds, will be able to claim state benefits. Therefore, the family will not be prevented from having a family home. It continued: If the spouse or child wishes to make a payment in order to extinguish the defendant's interest and remain in the family home, this is possible". I hope and trust that that quotation is one to which no Minister would wish to lend support. On some occasions the public interest in seizing the assets might outweigh the family's interests, although, sometimes, it might not. The trouble is that the Bill provides no opportunity to do the balancing exercise.

Mr. Garnier

I ask the hon. Lady this question as I suspect that she knows a lot more about the criminal law than most other Members in the Chamber this evening. Does the Crown court have a power of its own motion to hear an affected party who is not the defendant but may be an innocent family member or an innocent affected person outside the confines of that family? Does it have that power anyway, or does the hon. Lady contend that the court will do that only if it is given the power in statute?

Vera Baird

Not being the author of Archbold—although I am grateful for the compliment paid to me by the hon. and learned Gentleman—it seems that there is probably no such power. There may be a power to allow somebody to be heard but it is unclear what power there would be to restrain the confiscation order as a consequence of what they said unless an express power were provided in the statute to protect that interest under article 8. From two points of view—that of the approach taken by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and that of straightforward justice—there is a real danger that there will be litigation on the matter very soon, and that a hard case of an innocent family evicted for a confiscation order will mean that the Government will lose.

Mr. John Taylor (Solihull)

The hon. Lady referred to justice and equity, so may I draw to her attention the parallel that developed some years ago in English civil land law, which applied to the rights of the deserted spouse?. I think that it resulted from the case of Bendall v. McWhirter, but it certainly came from the noble mind of Lord Denning when he was Master of the Rolls. The protection of a deserted spouse has a certain resonance in this debate, so might we not draw some useful parallels?

Vera Baird

I take the hon. Gentleman's point. A self-sufficient legal right developed and in my respectful submission—said she using language that she should no longer be using—it is a good idea, if I can put it in a more folksy way, for the Government to consider whether it is necessary to put something similar in the Bill to protect family interests.

I emphasise that I am suggesting not that family interests will always prevail, but that they should be taken into account when they are drawn to a court's attention. There is a further danger that, given the situation in Scotland, article 14 of the European convention on human rights, which prevents the discriminatory implementation of the convention's rights, might also cause the Government litigation problems soon. I invite them to take a fresh look at the matter.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) for moving these excellent new clauses, and the whole House benefited from the learned contribution of the hon. Member for Redcar (Vera Baird); I certainly learned from it.

The Government want to create a strong law, but it is important that it is not a vindictive law. They want it to be a tough law, but it is important that it is not a foolish law. It is very much easier to legislate soundbites but to regret them afterwards when one comes to work out the detail or the unintended consequences. I therefore urge Ministers to think carefully about what well trained and well qualified lawyers in this place have said about the lack of proper protection in English law and the lack of symmetry between Scottish and English law.

The rest of us, who have concentrated on the possible human tragedies, have pointed out that it would surely not be right to visit in all circumstances all the sins of one person on all the other family members. The issues require careful analysis by proper people in a proper place—in a court of law hearing evidence and making careful consideration of all the facts and circumstances.

We want to achieve not merely proper punishment of the wrongdoer or to send out the strong and clear message that people should not profit from their crimes, but to create a stable background against which the families of such people have a chance of being brought up in a different lifestyle and in a different way.

John Robertson

Who will look after the rights of the people who have suffered and died as a result of becoming drug addicts? Who will look after their rights if we allow people to benefit from crime and buy houses from its proceeds?

Mr. Redwood

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman; he has misjudged his shot at me. I approach the matter in a consensual fashion, because we all agree that we do not want people to exploit others through the misery that is created by drug-pushing. We want to ensure that the villains are likely to have their ill-gotten gains confiscated—that is the purpose of the Bill.

We are now debating—an earlier intervention suggested that the hon. Gentleman sympathised with this view—whether it is right in every circumstance to take every asset and every valuable away from a family when their home may have originally been acquired quite legally and responsibly. Continued possession of the family home by the family members who are not in prison might be the best and most economical way from the state's point of view of giving that family a chance once they are separated from their loved one or former loved one who committed dreadful crimes and is rightly being punished for them.

If we consider the issue of state budgeting, we realise that it is not always sensible to take all the means of support from people, only to have to grant other means of support to them. If houses are confiscated, I trust that we will not leave families on the streets. Alternative provision must be made, and that might not only be worse for the family involved but it may turn out to be rather expensive for taxpayers who have to bear the burden of making the provision that had previously legally been made by the family. That could be the result if the law goes too far and does not give courts the opportunity to say, "In this case, the family would be better off if they were allowed to stay in the family home. All the assets from the trade have been confiscated and the person involved will be strongly punished in a variety of ways." For the sake of the family involved, it might be better for them to stay in the family home.

When I read the new clauses, which were drafted with considerable care and admirably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield, I was struck by just how moderate they were. They do not tell a court always to allow the family to remain in the matrimonial home and do not spell out circumstances in which they should definitely keep the family home. The new clauses clearly state that, when the family home is acquired as a direct result of the drugs trade, it should be confiscated. As the hon. Member for Redcar memorably remarked, if a great big mansion in the home counties with a swimming pool was clearly acquired from the proceeds of an illicit trade, the law should be designed so that part of the punishment should be its confiscation. There is much sympathy for that view on both sides of the House.

The new clauses modestly and moderately point out, however, that a protection similar to that in Scottish law should be afforded in English law and that the House of Commons should trust the courts to make difficult judgments and possibly mitigate action in a limited number of cases. The courts should be given the opportunity to decide whether a punishment was too harsh on the family even though it would properly punish the offender.

The Government have also argued that the protection already exists in English law and that there is no need for the Bill specifically to legislate for such a provision. We have heard the legal advice in the House that has been given freely, which is most desirable and unusual. I am grateful to the members of the legal profession for giving so freely of their advice and pointing out that the protection might not necessarily already exist in English law. Therefore, it is beholden on Ministers to spell out precisely how the protection will be provided if they really believe that it exists elsewhere in the law. If, as I fear, they are unable to do that, why do they not allow the protection afforded by the new clauses to be inserted in the Bill?

Ministers do not seem to object to the principle of protection in Scotland, so how can it be fair to allow for the protection to exist in one part of the United Kingdom—a kingdom that many of us would like to be even more united than it is under this Government—and not in another? We would like similar protection to be accorded under English law.

I hope that the Government feel the need to respond to the points made in the debate. They are either arguing that there are no circumstances in which families should be allowed to stay in the family home and that that would always be wrong, or they are saying that there is already adequate protection in English law. If that is so, they need to demonstrate that clearly tonight. I am sure that if they could show that such protection existed, my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield would reflect again on his new clauses.

I fully support my hon. Friend and the moderate new clauses that he moved so admirably. They deal with a potential injustice in the legislation. I conclude as I began: it does not help a law that is intended to be strong to make it vindictive. My hon. Friend is offering a modest but important improvement to the Bill, of which the House could be proud if it accepted it tonight.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

I can be brief because virtually all the points that I wanted to make have been made, but I wish to add to something said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood).

In Committee, Ministers went out of their way—at least, I think they did—to say that we need not worry because the protections exist already. They may be right or they may be wrong, but I do not think that matters. The Government have said that the protection offered in Scotland is right and that we have it in England already. All we are saying, however, is that the new clauses underline what the Government say already exists in England. If I understand that correctly, I cannot understand why they wish to resist the provision because the new clauses merely provide what already exists.

The only way to resolve the problem is for the Government to say that they agree with what we are trying to achieve. Where is the harm in saying that all over again to make certain that there is no doubt whatsoever? The Minister did not argue in Committee, and I hope that he will not argue tonight, that the protection should not be available in England. That is not the issue; everyone agrees that the protection should be available. The new clauses would ensure that it is, and I do not understand the Government's problem.

7 pm

Mr. Garnier

I, too, will be brief because much of what I wanted to say has been said, not least by my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) and the hon. Member for Redcar (Vera Baird).

We are under a special duty to get the legislation right. I declare an interest to the extent that I might have to apply the law that we are passing when I sit as a recorder in the Crown court in England. During the past four or five years that I have sat as a recorder, it has occurred to me that most of the people who come before the Crown court are little people; they are not the Mr. Bigs. I dare say that the Government intend to catch the Mr. Bigs, but most of them are sensible enough not to come within our jurisdiction. It is the mules and the smaller fry in the criminal chain who get caught. We must concentrate on them and their families, because that is what happens in real life in the conveyor belt that comes before the Crown court.

The hon. Member for Redcar said that she represents people who live in fairly inexpensive houses. They are the very people who are likely to get caught because their husbands or wives will be accessible to the police and therefore to the criminal justice system. The families will be the unwitting victims of this well-intended Bill. Once they have lost their houses or whatever chattel may be confiscated, they will fall upon the state. It is unwise of the state to take with one hand for a good and sensible criminal deterrent purpose and to give to the family of that defendant with the other.

I understand that the procedures under part 2 are compulsory. I may be wrong, and no doubt others who have studied the Bill in more detail will be able to tell me whether it is mandatory on the director to make an application in all circumstances in which the facts fit. If there is a mandatory requirement to apply part 2, we must be all the more careful to ensure that the Human Rights Act 1998 is properly respected.

Mr. Grieve

The prosecutor does have a discretion to ask the court to proceed. Once he has done that, the wheels grind into motion. The noteworthy aspect is that at that stage there are few exceptions to getting out of the process, apart from the possibility of the court not coming to a final decision because of the serious risk of injustice. As I see it, that relates to the circumstances of the defendant, not the innocent people who may he affected by the eventual decision.

Mr. Garnier

My hon. Friend allows me to bring my remarks to a swift conclusion.

The simple point is that we are all interested in deterrence and in inhibiting those who benefit from crime. However, I should also like to think that we are interested in justice. If we can do anything during the deliberative process to bring justice to the Bill while achieving its sensible consequences, this is the time for the Government to pause and think.

Mr. Bob Ainsworth

I shall begin by setting out the background to the different situations in the jurisdictions as they relate to the matrimonial home before I turn to the substantial issues, such as devolution, time to pay, representations and the jurisdiction of England and Wales.

The difference between parts 2 and 4 and part 3 is one of policy. The same policy difference is found in legislation that covers the three jurisdictions. Courts in England and Northern Ireland enjoy a discretion in the decision to exercise their restraint and receivership powers, but that must always be used to satisfy a confiscation order. I was accused of governing by soundbite. It is an honour to be accused of that. I never thought that that was a strong part of my political armoury, so that accusation is interesting to say the least. The policy difference exists in legislation that was passed by a Conservative Government. There is no provision in legislation that covers England or Northern Ireland to permit the family home not being realised.

Part 3 reflects the long-standing provision in Scottish legislation that gives Scottish courts the power ultimately to refuse the realisation of the family home when satisfying a confiscation order. The provision replicates earlier confiscation legislation for Scotland contained in the Proceeds of Crime (Scotland) Act 1995. That developed a briefer provision that was set out along the same lines in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1987. So the difference in the two jurisdictions has been around for a long time.

The confiscation legislation in the three jurisdictions is different because Scottish law adopts a different approach to the occupancy rights of spouses in general. The Matrimonial Homes (Family Protection) (Scotland) Act 1981 gives the right to occupy the matrimonial home to spouses who are not owners or tenants and provides for the protection of occupancy rights. There is no equivalent legislation in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, so the general legal framework against which the confiscation legislation operates is different in the three jurisdictions.

There are arguments in favour of both positions. What is the justification for allowing someone to retain the proceeds of crime? People say that we are insensitive or, perhaps, ridiculous, and that although we are after the Mr. Bigs we will catch the little people. Let me give a couple of examples to justify the situation in England and Wales. I accept that things are different in Scotland, but that is its choice.

If we allow the Bill to contain loopholes, the serious criminal will ensure that the overwhelming majority of the proceeds of crime that are visible and retained by him are sunk in the matrimonial home to give him protection. We must make no mistake about that. That is what happens now and it will happen to an increasing extent. People with large homes in Surrey, with their swimming pools and the rest, will say that they are not subject to the legislation if it involves their matrimonial home.

I love it when Conservatives become concerned about the little person. Let us imagine two little people living side by side in a street of terraced houses in any one of our constituencies. Such people turn up at our surgeries all the time, do they not? One person has lost his job and is unable to pay the mortgage, but there is no discretion for the court to prevent the mortgage company from taking away his home. Such people are not criminals, and their husbands and wives are not criminals. Yet they wind up in our surgeries, having lost their matrimonial home because they are unable to pay their debts. That happens to all of us, all the time. Those cases are heart-rending, and local authority social services and the welfare state do their best to rescue the situation, using whatever power they have.

Next door to the family who have lost their home because they were unable to pay their mortgage live a couple, one of whom is a drug dealer. He has paid for his home, entirely and beyond doubt from the proceeds of crime. Are we saying that those people should not face the same situation as the honest family next door? It is not only big people that we are talking about; the Bill may affect small people too. We have never been prepared to give to ordinary people who fall on hard times and lose their matrimonial home the protection that some Members claim should apply to people whose home has been paid for with the proceeds of crime and of the misery inflicted on the community in which they live.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Ainsworth

I give way to the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier).

Mr. Garnier

The examples given by the Minister have an attraction, but only a spurious attraction. As often as not, in the civil cases in which people cannot pay their mortgage, both partners will be aware of what is going on and will be able to make their own arrangements with the building society or mortgage lender. I accept that some circumstances will be different, but that will be the case, by and large. Whether or not their actions are effective, they will at least be able to take part in a process. In the second example, the spouse or partner may be wholly ignorant of any criminal activities. The Minister may not like my response to his argument, but that is my response.

Mr. Ainsworth

That is nonsense, and the hon. and learned Gentleman ought to know it. I have been a Member of Parliament for 10 years and I do not know how many times I have seen at my surgery women who claim that their husband ran up debt on a credit card, in a credit agreement or in payment for a car without them knowing anything about it. They are not responsible for that debt, but they end up being jointly and severally liable and losing their matrimonial home as a result. That happens all the time, and the hon. and learned Gentleman must know that. Although there is no joint responsibility for credit card bills, there is a joint responsibility to pay the mortgage, and if people cannot do so they lose their home. If the hon. and learned Gentleman can tell me that that does not happen, I will be more than happy to listen to him.

Vera Baird


Mr. Ainsworth

I shall give way to my hon. Friend in a moment because I want to deal with some of the points that she made.

What about a person who loses their job? How is that the fault of the spouse? Yet the spouse becomes liable for the financial situation that results. The hon. and learned Member for Harborough must know that the circumstances that apply to the innocent spouse in that case are the same as those that apply to the innocent spouse of a criminal. Hon. Members are saying that we should provide protection in one case but not the other. I think that my honest constituents who find themselves in that situation would find it offensive if we gave protection to the spouses of drug peddlers that they themselves are not entitled to.

7.15 pm

My hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Vera Baird) expressed concerns about time for payment. I refer her to clause 12, which says that if a defendant shows that he needs time to pay, he can be provided with six months, which can be extended to 12 months. Clause 62 provides that any person who may be affected by action that the receiver proposed to take can apply to the Crown court, which can give them extra time to pay. The receiver has discretion, where there are enough assets, to choose which to go for. I suggest that in those circumstances the spouse would be in a situation no worse than that faced by many of our constituents.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Ainsworth

I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael).

Mr. Carmichael

I am not quite the Minister's hon. Friend. He makes a compelling case for reforming the law on debt and on the removal of family members as a result of heritable repossession. I look forward to considering the legislation that will no doubt flow from that. As ever, the Minister makes the case on the worst-case scenario— that of the drug dealer, whose trade must be perfectly obvious. I suggest that many cases will involve not a drug dealer but a person who, to all intents and purposes, appears to be a perfectly respectable member of the business community. An example was given earlier of someone who runs a tanning studio in Glasgow, a scrap business or a security company—something with a high cash turnover. In those cases, it may be difficult to establish the facts, but surely it should be open to innocent members of the family to seek protection, and that is what our amendments aim to achieve.

Mr. Ainsworth

The hon. Gentleman knows that this provision applies to criminal confiscation and to individuals who have criminal convictions. He knows that the circumstances that we are discussing will probably arise in cases in which a criminal lifestyle assumption has been triggered, and he will know which offences, or pattern of offences, trigger the assumptions procedure. Otherwise, we would be talking about confiscating only the proceeds of a particular crime. We are not talking about cases in which there has been no pattern of criminal activity over a period or evidence of a lifestyle offence being committed. I mentioned drug dealing because it is a lifestyle offence, as the hon. Gentleman will know. We are talking about the homes of convicted criminals.

Vera Baird

My hon. Friend said some time ago that we are talking about cases in which the home has been acquired, lock, stock and barrel, through the proceeds of crime, but that is absolutely the opposite of the situation that we are talking about. Clause 101 protects only those matrimonial homes that have not been obtained from the proceeds of crime, so with great respect to my hon. Friend, what he said was not right.

I agree with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) that my hon. Friend makes a good case for providing protection for families in cases where mortgages are to be called in. If, however, the relevant law is wrong, duplicating it in the Bill will not improve it.

Forgive me for making a long intervention, but may I just ask one more question, Madam Deputy Speaker? My hon. Friend referred to clause 62, which allows any person to make a further application to the Crown court. However, under the Bill the Crown court does not have any power to respond to the application by an injured spouse.

Mr. Ainsworth

The power relates to the time to pay; I am sorry if that point was not clear. My hon. Friend made much of the fact that she did not think that it was possible to make representations, and was concerned that there would not be time to pay. There is both discretion and time to pay; it is possible to make representations. Hon. Members have said that I have made a good case for the reform of debt and that we should not be making matters worse. However, we would make things worse if we gave protection to family homes where the family had got into debt, because that would have wide ramifications. I do not know what would be the position of different parties and individuals in the house, but it would not be within the scope of the Bill.

As I have explained, we are not changing the law, which has operated for a long time in the jurisdictions of England and Wales. The power has been in existence throughout the time when confiscation legislation has been in place; if we are going to talk about the issue in relation to debt, this is the wrong starting point.

Vera Baird

My hon. Friend's point about the law having been in existence for some time is relatively minor, given the vast extension of the power to seize the proceeds of crime that the Bill will rightly introduce.

Mr. Ainsworth

My hon. Friend knows about, and supports, the real need for legislation given the massive problem that we face. The Bill would not be necessary or deemed proportionate if the problem did not exist. I accept that, as a result of historic precedents, different circumstances apply under the three jurisdictions, but to say that because something applies in Scotland it must apply in England and Wales is a strange construction to put on devolution, and would give us real problems.

The other amendments in this group apply only to Scotland. Amendment No. 207 seeks to extend to same-sex partners the protections that are available to the spouse. Clause 101 provides a degree of protection for the accused's spouse or former spouse and replicates the Proceeds of Crime (Scotland) Act 1995, which in turn mirrors section 40 the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985. The law makes different provision in different contexts for spouses, cohabitees and dependants. In the 1985 and 1995 Acts, and now the Bill, the main question under Scottish jurisdiction is balancing the rights of creditors or the public against the needs of children and spouses. The protection does not extend to cohabitees, whether they are same-sex or not. Spouses have agreed to financial obligations to each other in a way in which cohabitees have not.

The Scottish Executive are to issue a draft family law Bill based on the Scottish Law Commission's 1992 report. The commission did not propose that protection against the owner of the family home selling it or giving up the tenancy should be extended to cohabitees, whether same-sex or otherwise.

Mr. Carmichael


Mr. Ainsworth

I know that the hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene, and I would like to give way to him, but we have a lot of important amendments to discuss. We have spent a lot of time on this group and I have already taken a lot of important interventions.

Any changes in this area of the law should not be made piecemeal; they need to be part of a coherent package. I hope that I have explained to Members what, I accept, is a difficult area of the law. However, anomalies would be created if we went down the tempting road of simply examining the issue superficially. I hope that Opposition Members will not to press their amendments to a vote for the reasons that I have given. If not, I hope that my hon. Friends will be prepared to vote them down.

Mr. Grieve

I am sorry to hear the Minister's response to what, I hoped, were serious and constructive proposals. I hope that I may be forgiven if I did not detect that in advancing his arguments the Minister was not partly persuaded of the merit of the case that I tried to make, and felt that there were intervening factors that required him to make a contrary case.

I shall pick up a couple of the Minister's points, which highlight the oddity of the Government's position. First, a telling and learned point was made by the hon. Member for Redcar (Vera Baird) about the fact that the proposal has nothing to do with situations where we are certain that assets that are the proceeds or benefits of crime have been used to purchase a house. In those circumstances, there would be no exception, but in circumstances in which the director has not satisfied the court that the person's interest in his family home has been acquired as a benefit of his criminal conduct, new clause 2 kicks in. The idea that, as a result of our proposal, an individual could leave his wife and children in a £5 million house somewhere in Surrey is far-fetched. As we examine clause 102, which applies to Scotland—I am asking that it apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland—we can see that the court has enormous flexibility and the ability to grant the application subject to such conditions as it may prescribe. I can envisage a situation in which, while there ought to be enough money to provide a house, it will not be in leafy Surrey. The new clause is fair, decent and proper, and the provision that it makes is distinct from the question of mortgages and debts. We have strong views because sometimes mortgages are foreclosed in painful circumstances, but at least they concern private property rights. If a person does not honour those rights, they will not receive any money. Courts have powers of postponement, which they sometimes exercise, but eventually the trap door opens, or closes, and people go.

We are putting together a policy designed to attack criminals, which the Opposition support. Indeed, there is universal support in the House for the principles of the Bill, but we are seeking to mitigate its harshness. In those circumstances, a different set of rules should apply; we should differentiate the rights of the state upholding the rule of law from those of the person to whom the state should sometimes show mercy.

Mr. Bob Ainsworth

It is not like the hon. Gentleman to present half an argument without presenting the other half. He is right about the circumstances applying to the home, but he must accept that we are talking about an assumptions procedure where there is deemed to be a criminal lifestyle. He cannot present one half of the argument without the other half, and it is not like him to do so.

Mr. Grieve

I understand the Minister's point, but it is important that the House should understand the issue under discussion. The assumption is made and the person is deemed to have a criminal lifestyle. As he knows, huge consequences will result. Effectively, the burden of proof is reversed and all assets except those which can be shown to have been acquired legitimately disappear and are confiscated. The point of the new clause is to provide an extra safeguard. In some circumstances, the criminal lifestyle may be established to exist, but the reversal of the burden of proof should not take place in relation to the matrimonial home or the home in which the spouse, ex-spouse and children are living. In such circumstances, the burden should stay with the prosecutor. If the prosecutor cannot discharge it, would not a right-thinking person say that there might be a situation in which the full force and rigour of the law should not be invoked?

7.30 pm
Mr. Stinchcombe

The hon. Gentleman is arguing that there may be some circumstances in which the full rigour of the assumptions procedure should not bite. However, is it not the case that it does not bite under the Bill if either the assumption can be shown to be incorrect or there is a serious risk of injustice?

Mr. Grieve

I return to the point that I made at the outset: my view is that the serious risk of injustice arises in relation to the assumption and not to the circumstances surrounding the spouse, ex-spouse or child. I have been very well briefed on the matter and I am sure that the Minister would have corrected me if I had got that wrong. He has not done so. Although I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's point, I do not think that it alters the force of the argument in any way.

The hon. Member for Redcar eloquently pointed out that the system will be divergent within the United Kingdom. I appreciate that diversity can exist, but let us consider what would happen if separate cases arose in relation to two adjoining properties in one jurisdiction, but the person in the first case was dealt with through the Scottish courts, while his brother next door—his co-drug smuggler—was put through the English courts. That could produce completely different results for the spouse or ex-spouse and children in each of those adjoining properties. When that happens, people will complain long and loud about that injustice, which may well be in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998.

We are proposing a small change that would not have the catastrophic consequences that the Minister fears. If it could have such consequences, not only would he never have allowed the Scottish provision to survive, but Scottish Members would have called long and loud for its removal in Committee. However, they did not do so, and I dare say that this provision is seen in Scotland as a fair one that has not been abused. I do not believe that the difficult consequences that he foresees would flow from the new clause. Without it, the House will have a reputation for unfairness in the context of England of Wales on the basis of a law that is inexorable and shows no respite for those whom it should protect.

I do not know what will happen in another place and I realise that we are unlikely to succeed in persuading enough hon. Members to vote with us for the new clause. Listening to the debate, I hoped that the Minister would make a small concession, so that I could ask leave to withdraw the motion, while these matters could be returned to in another place. However, the more I have heard, the more persuaded I am that we are right to insist on our proposals. We shall, therefore, seek to press the new clause to a Division.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 157, Noes 273.

Division No. 169] [7.33 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Baron, John
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Barrett, John
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Beith, Rt Hon A J
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Beresford, Sir Paul
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Blunt, Crispin
Bacon, Richard Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Baker, Norman Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian Lidington, David
Brooke, Mrs Annette L Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela Loughton, Tim
Burnett, John Luff, Peter
Burnside, David MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Burstow, Paul Maclean, Rt Hon David
Butterfill, John McLoughlin, Patrick
Cable, Dr Vincent Malins, Humfrey
Cameron, David Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) May, Mrs Theresa
Moore, Michael
Carmichael, Alistair Moss, Malcolm
Chidgey, David Murrison, Dr Andrew
Chope, Christopher Norman, Archie
Clappison, James O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Pace, James
Collins, Tim Paterson, Owen
Cotter, Brian Prisk, Mark
Curry, Rt Hon David Pugh, Dr John
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Randall, John
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Redwood, Rt Hon John
Djanogly, Jonathan Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Donaldson, Jeffrey M Rendel, David
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Robathan, Andrew
Duncan, Peter (Galloway) Robertson, Hugh (Faversham)
Duncan Smith, Rt Hon Iain Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Evans, Nigel Roe, Mrs Marion
Fabricant, Michael Rosindell, Andrew
Fallen, Michael Ruffley, David
Flook, Adrian Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Sanders, Adrian
Foster, Don (Bath) Sayeed, Jonathan
Fox, Dr Liam Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Garnier, Edward Shepherd, Richard
George, Andrew (St Ives) Simmonds, Mark
Gibb, Nick Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Goodman, Paul Soames, Nicholas
Gray, James Spicer, Sir Michael
Grayling, Chris Spink, Bob
Green, Damian (Ashford) Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Green, Matthew (Ludlow) Steen, Anthony
Greenway, John Streeter, Gary
Grieve, Dominic Swayne, Desmond
Gummer, Rt Hon John Syms, Robert
Hammond, Philip Tapsell, Sir Peter
Hancock, Mike Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Harvey, Nick Taylor, John (Solihull)
Hawkins, Nick Taylor, Sir Teddy
Hayes, John Thurso, John
Heald, Oliver Tredinnick, David
Heath, David Trend, Michael
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Hoban, Mark Tyler, Paul
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Tyrie, Andrew
Holmes, Paul Viggers, Peter
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Waterson, Nigel
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Webb, Steve
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Whittingdale, John
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Jenkin, Bernard Wiggin, Bill
Johnson, Boris (Henley) Wilkinson, John
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Willetts, David
Knight, Rt Hon Greg (E Yorkshire) Wilshire, David
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Lamb, Norman Yeo, Tim
Lansley, Andrew Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Laws, David Younger-Ross, Richard
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver Tellers for the Ayes:
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Mrs. Cheryl Gillan and
Liddell-Grainger, Ian Mr. Charles Hendry.
Abbott, Ms Diane Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE) Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Allen, Graham Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Edwards, Huw
Atherton, Ms Candy Efford, Clive
Atkins, Charlotte Ellman, Mrs Louise
Bailey, Adrian Ennis, Jeff
Barron, Kevin Field, Rt Hon Frank (Birkenhead)
Bayley, Hugh Fisher, Mark
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Begg, Miss Anne Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Benn, Hilary Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Bennett, Andrew Foulkes, George
Benton, Joe Galloway, George
Berry, Roger Gapes, Mike
Best, Harold George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Betts, Clive Gibson, Dr Ian
Blackman, Liz Gilroy, Linda
Blears, Ms Hazel Godsiff, Roger
Blizzard, Bob Goggins, Paul
Borrow, David Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Bradley, Rt Hon Keith (Withington) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Grogan, John
Bradshaw, Ben Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Browne, Desmond Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Burden, Richard Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Burgon, Colin Hanson, David
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Cairns, David Healey, John
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hepburn, Stephen
Caplin, Ivor Heppell, John
Caton, Martin Hermon, Lady
Cawsey, Ian Heyes, David
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Hill, Keith
Chaytor, David Hoey, Kate
Clapham, Michael Hope, Phil
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough) Hopkins, Kelvin.
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Hoyle, Lindsay
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Hughes, Beverley (Stretford)
Clelland, David Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Clwyd, Ann Humble, Mrs Joan
Coaker, Vernon Hutton, Rt Hon John
Coffey, Ms Ann Iddon, Dr Brian
Cohen, Harry Illsley, Eric
Colman, Tony Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Irranca-Davies, Huw
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston) Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead)
Corston, Jean Jenkins, Brian
Cousins, Jim Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Cranston, Ross Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Crausby, David Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Cruddas, Jon Joyce, Eric
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Cummings, John Kemp, Fraser
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Khabra, Piara S
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire Kidney, David
Dalyell, Tam Kilfoyle, Peter
Darting, Rt Hon Alistair King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Davidson, Ian Kumar, Dr Ashok
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Dawson, Hilton Lammy, David
Dean, Mrs Janet Laxton, Bob
Denham, Rt Hon John Lazarowicz, Mark
Dhanda, Parmjit Lepper, David
Donohoe, Brian H Leslie, Christopher
Doran, Frank Levitt, Tom
Drew, David Lloyd, Tony
Drown, Ms Julia Love, Andrew
Luke, Iain Roy, Frank
McAvoy, Thomas Ruddock, Joan
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian Ryan, Joan
MacDonald, Calum Salter, Martin
McDonnell, John Sarwar, Mohammad
MacDougall, John Savidge, Malcolm
McGuire, Mrs Anne Sawford, Phil
McIsaac, Shona Sedgemore, Brian
McKechin, Ann Shaw, Jonathan
McKenna, Rosemary Sheerman, Barry
Mackinlay, Andrew Sheridan, Jim
Mactaggart, Fiona Shipley, Ms Debra
McWalter, Tony Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Mahmood, Khalid Skinner, Dennis
Mahon, Mrs Alice Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Mallaber, Judy Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Mann, John Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Marris, Rob Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Martlew, Eric Southworth, Helen
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Squire, Rachel
Merron, Gillian Steinberg, Gerry
Michael, Rt Hon Alun Stevenson, George
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Miliband, David Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Stinchcombe, Paul
Moffatt, Laura Stoate, Dr Howard
Moonie, Dr Lewis Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Morley, Elliot Stuart, Ms Gisela
Mudie, George Sutcliffe, Gerry
Munn, Ms Meg Taylor, Rt Hon Ann (Dewsbury)
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Naysmith, Dr Doug Tipping, Paddy
Norris, Dan Todd, Mark
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Trickett, Jon
O'Hara, Edward Truswell, Paul
Olner, Bill Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Organ, Diana Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr) Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Palmer, Dr Nick Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Pearson, Ian Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Perham, Linda Walley, Ms Joan
Picking, Anne Ward, Ms Claire
Pickthall, Colin Wareing, Robert N
Pike, Peter Watson, Tom
Plaskitt, James White, Brian
Pollard, Kerry Wicks, Malcolm
Pond, Chris Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Pope, Greg
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Prescott, Rt Hon John Winnick, David
Primarolo, Dawn Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Prosser, Gwyn Wood, Mike
Purchase, Ken Woolas, Phil
Purnell, James Worthington, Tony
Quin, Rt Hon Joyce Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Quinn, Lawrie Wright, David (Telford)
Rapson, Syd Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland) Tellers for the Noes:
Jim Fitzpatrick and
Ross, Ernie Mr. Graham Stringer.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to intervene on the deliberations on the Bill, but I understand that it is widely reported that there are two suspected cases of foot and mouth disease on the north York moors in my constituency. I am sure that the whole House would want to express its hope that the tests being carried out on samples from the two sheep prove negative. Our thoughts are with the farmer concerned and those in the surrounding area, who must be very apprehensive. In the event that the result of the tests is bad news, the House would like reassurance that there will be an emergency statement from the appropriate Minister, and I would be grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you could ensure through your good offices that would be done.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord)

I have no knowledge of the matter to which the hon. Gentleman refers. Ministerial statements are entirely a matter for the Ministers responsible, but the House will have heard the point that the hon. Gentleman has made.

Mr. Salmond

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Have you had notification from the Minister of State, Scotland Office that he is going to make a statement on an interview that he has given to BBC Scotland suggesting that the Electricity Act 1989 should take precedence over planning Acts in Scotland, to allow decisions on the development of nuclear power stations in Scotland to be made here rather than in the Scottish Parliament? If the Minister is going to make statements subordinating Scottish democracy to this Government's nuclear obsession, at least he should have the courtesy to do so from the Dispatch Box, rather than to BBC Scotland.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order for the Chair.

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