HC Deb 14 October 1991 vol 196 cc13-4
31. Mr. Skinner

To ask the Attorney-General what recent discussions he has had with the Serious Fraud Office regarding banking and financial transactions; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General (Sir Patrick Mayhew)

I have frequent discussions with the director of the Serious Fraud Office about matters of departmental interest. The specific subjects discussed need to remain confidential.

Mr. Skinner

Have the Attorney-General and the Serious Fraud Office been discussing financial transactions to the Tory party in the form of donations by Greeks and Hong Kong business men? What special favours have been handed out to those business people by the Government? Why is it that the Tory party has taken money from Asil Nadir when that same man is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office? Will the chairman of the Tory party send the money back? If it is right to investigate the National Union of Mineworkers' finances involving money from abroad, why cannot we have the same investigation into money for the Tory party?

The Attorney-General

Who subscribes to what and to whom is not a matter for me. I shall refer matters relating to the NUM to the hon. Gentleman, who is its vicar upon earth, or at least upon the surface. It seems extremely unfair for the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] Perhaps I might be allowed to intrude in the hon. Gentleman's conversation. It seems a little unfair for the hon. Gentleman to suggest that a man who is already facing 18 criminal charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office has previously sought improper favours by means of some subscription. If he reflects on that, I think that he, with his well-known fairness, will consider that it is unfair.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is nonsensical to talk about fraud as victimless crime? I have in mind those who are involved with the BCCI scandal and many other such matters. I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to accept that it is not a criticism of the Serious Fraud Office to say that it would be better if it could have more staff and if there could be greater co-operation with the City regulatory bodies. So often the victim gets fleeced and the fleecer gets clear away. Is it not time that we got in quicker and made sure that those involved with finance know that they cannot get away with these crimes, which are not victimless?

The Attorney-General

They are certainly not victim-less. That is why this Government—not a Labour Government—created the Serious Fraud Office with unique powers of investigation. Nor do victims have to suffer, seeing that nobody gets away. Since the end of the past financial year, 10 trials have been brought to a conclusion. Seventeen defendants have been convicted and only two of the total have been acquitted.

My hon. Friend also referred to staffing. The matter is kept under close review and supervision by the director. The staff is now up to the maximum permitted level. If I thought—and if the director thought—that a significant shortfall had occurred, I would take steps to see that it was remedied.