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House of Commons Hansard
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General Committees
24 April 2018

Delegated Legislation Committee

Statute Law (Repeals) Measure Pensions (Pre-Consolidation) Measure Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure Mission and Pastoral etc. (Amendment) Measure Legislative Reform Measure

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Siobhain McDonagh

Bryant, Chris (Rhondda) (Lab)

† Clwyd, Ann (Cynon Valley) (Lab)

† Donelan, Michelle (Chippenham) (Con)

† Dunne, Mr Philip (Ludlow) (Con)

† Evennett, David (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con)

† Graham, Richard (Gloucester) (Con)

Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall) (Lab)

† Jones, Mr Marcus (Nuneaton) (Con)

Kendall, Liz (Leicester West) (Lab)

Mann, John (Bassetlaw) (Lab)

† Selous, Andrew (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)

† Smyth, Karin (Bristol South) (Lab)

† Spelman, Dame Caroline (Second Church Estates Commissioner)

† Tami, Mark (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab)

† Tolhurst, Kelly (Rochester and Strood) (Con)

† Williamson, Chris (Derby North) (Lab)

† Wragg, Mr William (Hazel Grove) (Con)

Jennifer Burch, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Fifth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 24 April 2018

[Siobhan McDonagh in the Chair]

Statute Law (Repeals) Measure

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It may be helpful if I briefly outline the procedure. In a moment, I will ask whether the Committee is content to debate the five Measures together. If there is no objection, the Committee will have a single debate of no longer than an hour and a half, covering all five Measures. If there is an objection, the Measures will be debated in turn for no longer than an hour and a half each. Is it the wish of the Committee that the instruments be debated together?

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I call the Second Church Estates Commissioner to move the first motion and speak to all the instruments. At the end of the debate, I will put the question on the first motion, then ask her to move the remaining motions formally.

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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the Statute Law (Repeals) Measure (HC 781).

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With this it will be convenient to consider the Pensions (Pre-Consolidation) Measure (HC 782), the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure (HC 783), the Mission and Pastoral etc. (Amendment) Measure (HC 784) and the Legislative Reform Measure (HC 785).

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Thank you, Ms McDonagh. It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I thank all Members for rising early to attend the Committee.

This is the first set of Church Measures to be considered in this Parliament. I will speak to each of the five Measures in turn, but it might be helpful for members of the Committee to understand the journey that the legislation has been on—it is a little different from how the House approaches other types of legislation.

All the Measures were debated at length in the General Synod of the Church of England, which is a bit like the Parliament of the Church of England in that every diocese sends an elected representative. The Measures have been approved to be put before the Ecclesiastical Committee which, in the constitution of our Parliament, is composed of Members of both Houses. The Committee considered the Measures first in the form rather like a draft legislative Committee—informally—and then formally. It made important, small amendments to the Measures that have refined them, and professed itself content with them, which is why they are before us this morning. I hope that that background might be helpful.

The procedure for Church Measures is set out in the Church of England Assembly (Powers Act) 1919, which became part of general law. In effect, it devolves lawmaking for the Church of England to the General Synod, subject to parliamentary scrutiny. As I have said, the Ecclesiastical Committee has reported its view that each of the five Measures is deemed expedient, which is the term used—Measures are either expedient or non-expedient as far as the Ecclesiastical Committee is concerned.

The Legislative Reform Measure will make it possible to remove or reduce burdens resulting in ecclesiastical legislation without going through the legislative process that applies to Measures under the 1919 Act. The Church of England needs that facility to address significant practical difficulties in a timely fashion. Until very recently, far more detail was included on the face of primary legislation than would be the case today. As primary legislation, whether in the form of an Act or Measure, can generally be amended only by further primary legislation, changes to Church legislation have proved time-consuming, costly and onerous. It generally takes between two and three years for a Measure to complete all stages in the General Synod and Parliament. It can take up to a year longer if, for example, Parliament is dissolved, as happened in very recent history.

For some legislation—for example, legislation that has constitutional implications or implications for the rights of individuals—the full legislative process in the Synod in Parliament provides the opportunity stage by stage for careful consideration, but for legislation to remove or reduce burdens of a financial and administrative nature, a legislative process taking two or three years is far too slow. The Measure therefore confers a power on the Archbishops’ Council to make orders to remove or reduce burdens. The Archbishops’ Council comprises senior members of the General Synod.

Before making an order, the Archbishops’ Council must carry out full statutory consultation. The draft order must then be laid before the General Synod. If the Synod approves the draft order, the Archbishops’ Council may proceed to make it. It must then lay the order before both Houses of Parliament, subject to the negative procedure for statutory instruments. An order will therefore not take effect if it is annulled by either House of Parliament, and further provisions to safeguard the role of Parliament and the constitutional position of the Church of England have been built into the Measure.

This is not a general power to legislate by order. It has been modelled to a large degree on the power that Parliament conferred on itself under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006. The order-making power can be used only to amend or repeal “ecclesiastical legislation”, as defined in the Measure, and a number of ecclesiastical statutes have been expressly excluded, such as those relating to the appointment of bishops, key Measures that make provision for the worship and doctrine of the Church of England, and provisions relating to the application of the Church Commissioners’ general fund and for provision of constitutional significance.

Members of the Ecclesiastical Committee were given the opportunity to comment informally on the draft Measure at an early stage, and they provided three further safeguards. First, the Archbishops’ Council will be required to lay the consultation documents before both Houses of Parliament. Secondly, the Committee further restricted the scope of the order-making power by adjusting the definition of ecclesiastical legislation in the Measure so that it clearly excludes provisions contained in Acts of Parliament that do not form part of the ecclesiastical law of the Church of England.

Thirdly, a sunset provision was inserted into the Measure so that the order-making power expires five years after the first draft order is laid before the General Synod and can continue in force after that period only under a special procedure that involves an affirmative resolution in both Houses of Parliament. The sunset provision will in due course provide Parliament with an opportunity to see how the new order-making power is working. The power will provide the Church with a procedure for making uncontentious legislative changes within what should be a maximum 12-month period—a significant improvement over the average two to three years it currently takes.

The second Measure concerns mission and pastoral amendments, and implements proposals that were initially formulated by a simplification taskforce established by the Archbishops’ Council. Pastoral reorganisation is one of the things included, because such things as the creation of new benefices and parishes and the closure and opening of new churches are an active part of what the Church has to do. The amendments will streamline those procedures and remove duplication, making the consultation process more effective. For example, if a deanery synod has a plan for parish reorganisation, the Measure removes the duplication of a separate consultation on such a reorganisation—consultation should need to be done only once. The provisions therefore contain the presumption that the formulated deanery plan for pastoral reorganisation will give effect to the proposals. Also, a new type of instrument called a Bishop’s pastoral order will be available to provide for a limited range of administrative matters, such as changing the name of a parish, after consultation with the parishioners, or the creation of a deanery.

Provisions are contained within the Measure for compensating clergy who lose office as a result of pastoral reorganisation. The existing provisions provide in effect for a member of clergy who is displaced and does not find another post to receive compensation for loss of stipend and housing until they reach pensionable age. The new provisions are more workable, replacing the existing arrangements with compensation based on 12-months’ stipend and pension contributions, which is still significantly more generous than statutory compensation for people in other professions. On top of that, the bishop will have a discretionary power to authorise additional payments. Should the priest be shortly before retirement, it would be possible to extend the compensation beyond the 12 months, running up to the statutory retirement provisions. Additionally, the Measure strips away a number of over-prescriptive provisions, and various other provisions have been tidied up.

The third Measure is the Pensions (Pre-Consolidation) Measure. At its forthcoming meeting in July, the General Synod will look more widely at the pension provision within the Church as part of the work of trying to bring pensions together in a more practical way and ensuring that people are properly provided for. It amends various Measures and regulations and consolidates a large number of Measures and regulations that deal with Church of England pensions.

One Measure is worth citing because it was examined in detail at the Ecclesiastical Committee. It makes provision to permit the Church of England pensions board to transfer the clergy widows and dependants pensions fund into the Church of England funded pensions scheme, which is the main scheme that covers current service by clergy. That will mean that any excess sums in the widows and dependants fund can be applied for by clergy and their dependants under the funded scheme. At the same time, it will provide increased security to the beneficiaries of the much smaller widows and dependants fund. I stress that it provides better protection for the widows and dependents of clergy.

The Statute Law (Repeals) Measure repeals a number of ecclesiastical enactments that are spent, obsolete, unnecessary or otherwise not of any practical utility. It consolidates some of the 36 enactments relating to ecclesiastical jurisdiction and the care of churches and other places of worship. The oldest enactment that is consolidated in the Measure goes back to 1708, so it is high time we did a little tidying up.

The result is that all statute law relating to ecclesiastical jurisdiction other than the disciplinary jurisdiction over the clergy, and all statute law relating to the faculty jurisdiction and associated matters, are contained in a single Measure. That will make it much easier for anyone who needs to use the legislation to find out what the law is and to apply it.

In summary, those are the five Measures we are considering. I would be grateful for the support of Committee in approving that the Measures be sent for Royal Assent, which is essentially what we are doing. I remain at the disposal of the Committee for any questions that may pertain.

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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms McDonagh. The Opposition welcome the Measures, but I will touch on a couple of points about them.

On the Legislative Reform Measure, anything that seeks to reduce the burdens as defined and bring things up to date is to be welcomed, particularly in terms of more transparency for those working in that area. We agree on the Mission and Pastoral etc. (Amendment) Measure and welcome it in the interest of transparency. The Pensions (Pre-Consolidation) Measure is important in terms of return for years of service by the clergy and their widows and dependents. It will provide assurance and transparency for members of the scheme. The Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure is also to be welcomed.

We have a few concerns, which I will highlight. With regard to the tenure and compensation in the Mission and Pastoral etc. (Amendment) Measure, there is a period of one year in which people can find a new home, as the right hon. Lady identified. I recognise that the bishop has discretion, but I remind her that when people reach a key time in their lives or family circumstances—for example, it could be children’s schooling—the cost and availability of housing in many areas can be problematic. We hope that, in the use of those powers, the bishop will be cognisant of the security that is needed when moving, particularly for families and children at an important time in their education. A year has been identified as a longer period of time than other public servants might have, but it is still a short time in the life of a family.

With regard to the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure, the Commissioners need to be mindful of the special place that churches have in our communities for those of us of no faith as well as those in the Church of England and other faiths. They are an important part of our history and community landscape and therefore belong to all of us. We welcome the clarity on the list. Access is important for that reason.

This has been a period of continued change for those involved—many years and many committee meetings have got us to this point. We thank them for their work, which is to be welcomed. For those working for, volunteering at or worshipping in the Church, it is important that the Commissioners continue to make its operation more accountable, accessible and transparent through such Measures.

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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising those points. She might be reassured by the bit of extra research that I did on the statutory redundancy provisions in wider society, and the provisions under this Measure and that exist for clergy should they be displaced from their roles. Statutory redundancy pay, which applies to those who have worked for an employer for at least two years, is based on one week’s pay for each full year worked between the ages of 22 and 41, and one and a half week’s pay for each full year worked over the age of 41. The length of service is capped at 20 years, and the maximum amount payable is £15,240.

The compensation package for clergy is significantly more attractive, because clergy will get a 12-month stipend of about £25,000 irrespective of their length of service. They will also receive the equivalent of 12 months’ pension contributions. There is no provision for compensation in lieu of pension contributions under statutory redundancy pay. Under the new scheme, clergy who lose office are also entitled to housing for 12 months if they were previously living in a vicarage or other official residence. Again, there is no equivalent in the secular sphere.

The clergy package is therefore worth about £45,000. In addition, I reassure the Committee that the bishop will still have a discretionary power to extend that in such circumstances as those to which the hon. Lady referred. Hopefully that reassures the Committee that those who have served the Church so well are well cared for in such an event.

Question put and agreed to.

Pensions (Pre-Consolidation) Measure

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the Pensions (Pre-Consolidation) Measure (HC 782).—(Dame Caroline Spelman.)

Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure (HC 783).—(Dame Caroline Spelman.)

Mission and Pastoral Etc. (Amendment) Measure

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the Mission and Pastoral Etc. (Amendment) Measure (HC 784).—(Dame Caroline Spelman.)

Legislative Reform Measure

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the Legislative Reform Measure (HC 785).—(Dame Caroline Spelman.)

Committee rose.

Draft Transport Levying Bodies (Amendment) Regulations 2018

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Sir Henry Bellingham

† Bridgen, Andrew (North West Leicestershire) (Con)

† Brokenshire, James (Old Bexley and Sidcup) (Con)

† Churchill, Jo (Bury St Edmunds) (Con)

Cunningham, Alex (Stockton North) (Lab)

† Foxcroft, Vicky (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab)

† Fysh, Mr Marcus (Yeovil) (Con)

† George, Ruth (High Peak) (Lab)

Glindon, Mary (North Tyneside) (Lab)

† Green, Chris (Bolton West) (Con)

† Hart, Simon (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) (Con)

† Hayes, Helen (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab)

† Heald, Sir Oliver (North East Hertfordshire) (Con)

† Hughes, Eddie (Walsall North) (Con)

† Johnson, Joseph (Minister of State, Department for Transport)

† Maskell, Rachael (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)

† Morris, Grahame (Easington) (Lab)

† Rashid, Faisal (Warrington South) (Lab)

Mike Everett, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 24 April 2018

[Sir Henry Bellingham in the Chair]

Draft Transport Levying Bodies (Amendment) Regulations 2018

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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Transport Levying Bodies (Amendment) Regulations 2018.

The draft regulations that we are considering today, if approved, would enable Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority to collect appropriate levies from its constituent councils to meet the costs of carrying out their transport functions. As only the upper-tier authorities—Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council—have transport functions, the levy will fall solely on these authorities.

The seven constituent councils of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority—the administrative areas of Cambridgeshire County Council, the City Councils for Cambridge and Peterborough and the District Councils for East Cambridgeshire, Fenland, Huntingdonshire and South Cambridgeshire—have led a local process to improve their governance arrangements, which culminated in this House and the other place agreeing orders that saw the establishment of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority in March 2017.

This order gave effect to the desire of the local authorities in these areas to improve their joint working, including on transport matters. An order has since been made which provided for a Mayor to be elected in May 2017 to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. The elected Mayor is the chair of the Combined Authority. Combined authorities are designated as levying bodies under the Local Government Finance Act 1988. Under that Act, the Secretary of State is able to make regulations in relation to the expenses of combined authorities that are reasonably attributable to the exercise of its functions, including those relating to transport.

The upper-tier authorities—Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council—will need to consider how they fund any levy issued by the combined authority as part of their budget process. They will need to take into account the impact of council tax levels in their area, including when determining whether any council tax increase is excessive.

These draft regulations have to establish how any transport levy would be apportioned between the upper-tier authorities if the combined authority could not reach agreement. In the event that they cannot agree, the combined authority will apportion the levy by taking into account previous levels of transport expenditure by the authorities. The regulations help to facilitate the provision of transport arrangements as part of the combined authority’s wider governance changes, and I commend them to the Committee.

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The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority was constituted in 2017, and has responsibility for some transport functions. However, it is these regulations which need to determine how these functions will be paid for.

As two upper-tier authorities are involved—Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough Council—the regulations seek to levy revenue from these in the proportion of the previous year’s spend for the subsequent year. This sum will then be adjusted for the following financial year based on actual spend. The funding can be drawn from council tax or Government grants, while they exist.

There are a couple of issues that strike Labour concerning these arrangements. First, there should be a strategic transport plan which sets out a detailed plan for the Combined Authority. This should be budgeted and should articulate where year-on-year spend should occur. This could be significantly different from the approach being taken where there are assumptions of equivalence to previous activity. The proposed process risks reinforcing a previous year’s pattern of expenditure, and/or could result in an end-of-year readjustment where one council will owe, possibly a significant resource, to the other council. This does not appear to be a sensible or logical mechanism through which to determine expenditure, and will increase administration at the end of each year and possibly have a significant impact on other budgets.

Could the Minister say why the combined authorities do not just create a strategic plan, budget for such a plan and then determine the year-on-year levy from each local authority on the basis of that plan? While there may still be need for minor adjustments at the end of the financial year, it would result in less significant variances, and be more in tune with real-time, actual expenditure.

Secondly, it seems that the way transport devolution is being determined is leading to further fragmentation of the transport system, not least the absence of a guiding mind over the transport system. Areas of the country now have a complete spectrum of different powers, if any, and mechanisms for funding them. This is not only creating much confusion but is not lending to an improved transport system. When will the Minister bring forward a strategic plan for the transport system, which is long overdue?

Labour believes that transport demands long-term plans, good governance requires full budgeting processes, and the people of our country need to have greater certainty as to where their taxes are being spent. Labour will not be dividing the House over these regulations, but does want the Minister to respond to the concerns raised in this debate.

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I shall try to answer the points made by the hon. Member for York Central about the need for a strategic plan. She asked how the levy would be spent and what sort of decision making would be required as the combined authority determined its transport priorities. The starting point is that the total levy that the combined authority requires will be determined annually by the authority, and will be subject to its agreed voting arrangements, which as the hon. Lady may know, require a two-thirds majority vote, subject to that majority including the votes of Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council. So there would be democratic oversight of the funding requirement that the combined authority sought.

The hon. Lady asked about fragmentation of the system and what she saw as the lack of a guiding mind and therefore the potential emergence of confusion in the system. The Department and the Government as a whole take a bottom-up approach to devolution, recognising that local groups and communities are best placed to determine their specific needs and identify the kinds of benefits that they seek from the transport system. That approach means that, where places choose this approach, we will support them. The transport plan will inevitably be part of devolution deals with any combined authority such as the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. We would expect to see a transport plan forming part of any devolution deal and settlement that is granted.

The levy will initially be set by agreement with the local authorities, and this power provides a fallback in the event of disagreement to ensure that the combined authority can continue to deliver transport functions into the future. The provision of these powers to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority is, I hope the hon. Lady agrees, an example of this Government’s commitment to devolving to metropolitan Mayors, which will result in improved delivery of local transport.

The placing of this funding stream from two of its constituent authorities in statute will strengthen the ability of the combined authority and its elected Mayor to raise a levy and use this funding to take strategic decisions on transport investment across the region. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Crime and Courts Act 2013 (Deferred Prosecution Agreements) (Amendment of Specified Offences) Order 2018

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Ms Nadine Dorries

† Frazer, Lucy (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice)

† Frith, James (Bury North) (Lab)

† Heaton-Jones, Peter (North Devon) (Con)

† Kinnock, Stephen (Aberavon) (Lab)

† Latham, Mrs Pauline (Mid Derbyshire) (Con)

† Lopez, Julia (Hornchurch and Upminster) (Con)

McCarthy, Kerry (Bristol East) (Lab)

† Morris, Anne Marie (Newton Abbot) (Con)

† Morris, James (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con)

† Onasanya, Fiona (Peterborough) (Lab)

† Pawsey, Mark (Rugby) (Con)

† Phillipson, Bridget (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab)

† Qureshi, Yasmin (Bolton South East) (Lab)

† Reynolds, Emma (Wolverhampton North East) (Lab)

Russell-Moyle, Lloyd (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op)

† Tredinnick, David (Bosworth) (Con)

† Whittaker, Craig (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

Danielle Nash, Previn Desai, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Seventh Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 24 April 2018

[Nadine Dorries in the Chair]

Draft Crime and Courts Act 2013 (Deferred Prosecution Agreements) (Amendment of Specified Offences) Order 2018

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Before we begin, if any gentleman or anyone else, including ladies, would like to remove their jacket, please go ahead. It is very warm in here. I call the Minister to move the motion.

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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Crime and Courts Act 2013 (Deferred Prosecution Agreements) (Amendment of Specified Offences) Order 2018.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. The statutory instrument relates to deferred prosecution agreements, which allow prosecutors to reach agreement with corporate entities that could otherwise be prosecuted for certain types of economic crime. The measure has been introduced simply to add extra offences. I say “add”, but we are simply dealing with the fact that the current legislation does not reflect changes made by the Financial Services Act 2012. That Act repeals certain offences and replaces them with new ones in the schedule relating to DPAs. That was a technical oversight, so I hope Committee members are pleased to hear that we should not detain them for long.

It is important to set out the background and identify what DPAs are. A DPA enables a prosecutor to reach agreement with a corporate entity that has committed an economic crime to allow the prosecution to be suspended pending the fulfilment of certain conditions by the company. It will be approved by a court only if the court is satisfied that it will meet the interests of justice, and if the terms are fair, reasonable and proportionate. The indictment that the company faces is suspended for the duration of the agreement—usually two or three years—and it can be reinstated if the company breaches the agreement. The purpose is to provide punishment such as disgorgement of profits, a financial penalty or steps to improve corporate governance. The entity receives a punishment without the severe consequences of a prosecution, which might result in a company going into liquidation, thus having to lay off innocent workers who have done nothing wrong.

Quite simply, the schedule of crimes in part 2 of schedule 17 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 includes a reference to section 397 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, which deals with misleading statements, practices and impressions in financial transactions. The provisions were repealed and replaced by the Financial Services Act 2012, which introduced offences that we want to include: misleading statements regarding relevant benchmarks and misleading impressions about the value of investments and interest rates that apply to a transaction. Those offences replace the section 397 offences in the repealed legislation. The statutory instrument seeks to amend part 2 of schedule 17 to the Crime and Courts Act 2013, and I commend it to the Committee.

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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries.

First, I declare an interest as I am a door tenant at 3, Temple Gardens, and I occasionally practise criminal law. It is important to put that on the record. I am not seeking a Division on this matter as the Opposition agree that the measure makes perfect sense. It is important to deal with crime, especially financial crime.

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I should probably say that I was a practising barrister—I no longer practise—if that is relevant. I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s indications.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.