HC Deb 05 May 1964 vol 694 cc1089-91
6. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Attorney-General what consultations the Director of Public Prosecutions has had with police forces regarding allegations of bribery in professional football; whether inquiries into this matter with a view to instituting criminal proceedings have been completed; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General:

The Director of Public Prosecutions has been consulted by the police about these allegations. It is not the practice to disclose particulars of such consultations. Police inquiries are still in progress and I am not yet in a position to make a statement.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Will the Attorney-General bear in mind that we are a little handicapped at present and that, if I understand the position correctly, when the present Bill becomes an Act of Parliament we shall have the right in Parliament to put questions directly regarding the retorts of chief constables? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that these incidents have cast a black cloud of suspicion over the whole sport and that with the World Cup to be played here in 1966 people generally would prefer it if the Attorney-General would take resolute action by consulting the Home Office and the Director of Public Prosecutions so that the whole business can be dealt with?

The Attorney-General

I am, of course, aware of the grave public anxiety with regard to the sport of football against which these allegations have been made. I assure the hon. Member that I am in touch with the Director of Public Prosecutions and am anxious about this matter and will see that the Director's consultations are completed as soon as they rapidly can be.

Mr. Mason

Is the Attorney-General aware that this bribery and corruption in football could have been unearthed and cleared up twelve months ago but that this was not possible because of a rapidly and dangerously growing practice of what is called cheque-book journalism, which discourages key witnesses from both giving evidence and assisting the law and, at the same time, encourages them to withhold the evidence so that they can give it to the highest bidder from the Press world? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that this is a dangerously growing practice, that he ought to deplore it and that he should take steps to curb this practice from developing further?

The Attorney-General

This matter raises big issues about the administration of criminal law. It is right that those who may be involved in criminal offences cannot be forced to make statements. Whether statements are bought from them which they are not prepared to make for the purpose of convicting themselves is a different question which raises big issues.