HC Deb 25 October 1976 vol 918 cc23-4
42. Mr. Skinner

asked the Minister for Overseas Development whether he has now received the report of the Fay Committee dealing with the Crown Agents; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister for Overseas Development (Mr. Reginald Prentice)

No, Sir. I expect the committee to report in the first part of next year.

Mr. Skinner

In the meantime, will my right hon. Friend indicate, by publishing information in the Official Report, the extent to which the Crown Agents in recent times have broken the law by failing to pay the dollar premium on certain transactions? Does it not follow that the taxpayer, who is largely footing the bill for the Crown Agents now as a result of those transactions, has to find an extra £3½ million? Why is it found necessary for the Crown Agents to have a subsidiary bank in the tax haven of the Bahamas?

Mr. Prentice

None of those questions arises from the original Question. If my hon. Friend wants to ask me questions about those matters, he can do so. I do not understand why he keeps putting down these Questions, with supplementaries that become increasingly offensive and increasingly irrelevant.

Mr. Spearing

Does not my right hon. Friend recall that when some misgivings were expressed in this House over the activities of the Crown Agents, one of the causes of concern was the manner in which and the authorisation by which the former Crown Agents expanded from their well-proven traditional role? Will he assure us that the Fay Report will deal with the authorisations that were or were not, supposedly, given at that time? If not, will he ask for further investigations to be pursued?

Mr. Prentice

My hon. Friend is fan-to refer to the disquiet that was felt in the House about the activities of the Crown Agents. That is why the Fay Committee was appointed by my predecessor. Its report will be published in due course. In the meantime, I am glad that my hon. Friend drew a distinction between the undesirable investments of the Crown Agents and their traditional activities. Their traditional activities have continued. They showed a profit last year, and they are of great benefit to this country and to developing countries throughout the world.

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