HC Deb 18 March 1991 vol 188 cc15-6
30. Mr. Skinner

To ask the Attorney-General what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the mechanism for the prosecution of fraud relating to the City of London; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General

On 6 March I made an extended visit to the Serious Fraud Office, whose director I frequently meet. The professionalism and commitment among staff of all disciplines and at all levels impressed me greatly. So did the innovative approach adopted by the SFO to the use of new technology, both in case management and in court presentation. From the legislation of a Conservative Government, I am glad to say that we now have in place a far more formidable and effective mechanism for the prosecution of serious and complex fraud than anything that our predecessors evidently thought sufficient.

Mr. Skinner

Will the Attorney-General tell us whether that new mechanism will be sufficient to deal with that national organisation near to the City of London and close to the Palace of Westminster, which has been trading under three different names during the past four years? Is he aware that it has been attempting a reverse takeover bid of one major corporation and a Labour co-operative, and that a statement was made at the weekend by a leader of that group who, when he was under pressure, become known as Paddy Backdown?

The Attorney-General

The hon. Gentleman spent a great deal of time memorising that question but he has not made it entirely clear to me. Any matter that is brought before the police or the Serious Fraud Office as meriting investigation will be investigated. If enough evidence is admissible in a criminal court proceeding to give rise to the realistic prospect of a conviction, a prosecution will follow. However, I doubt whether my answer will satisfy the hon. Gentleman—that will depend on many factors that cannot be taken into account by a quasi-judicial authority.