The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) criticised "disappointing" progress on confiscation orders today, before adjourning a meeting early after a Home Office representative did not appear ready to discuss previously agreed points.
The PAC took evidence from Mark Sedwill, permanent secretary at the Home Office, Mick Creedon, chief constable of Derbyshire Police and national lead officer for Serious and Organised Crime, and Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions at the Crown Prosecution Service, on a recent report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on confiscation orders.
Last month, the NAO issued a progress review on confiscation orders, examining six recommendations the PAC had identified in a 2013 report and concluding that just one of the PAC's suggestions – that sanctions for non-payment should be strengthen – had been fully addressed.
Sedwill argued that the progress made on the orders had not been properly reflected in the NAO report and contested that he no longer viewed some of the previously agreed recommendations as needing to be carried out in full.
Calling the hearing a "farce", Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC, brought the meeting to a halt after roughly 40 minutes, telling Sedwill it was unacceptable "to agree [the recommendations] and then come back with [a] confused message".
Adding that an adjournment was something she "never wanted to do in this Committee", Hillier remarked: "This is a hugely important issue. This is getting criminal assets back to the taxpayer."
Sedwill has been asked to write to PAC clearly laying out the points in the NAO report he contends by the end of the week, so that the meeting can be recalled within the next 10 days.
Confiscation orders are designed to deprive convicted criminals of the proceeds of their crimes. The NAO report found that, since 2014, criminal justice agencies had increased the amount they had collected under confiscation orders by 16 per cent but the number of orders imposed had dropped by seven per cent.