HC Deb 06 July 1992 vol 211 c13
31. Mr. Skinner

To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a further statement on the work of the Serious Fraud Office in 1992.

The Attorney-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell)

The current caseload of the Serious Fraud Office is 59 cases, of which 28 are being tried or are awaiting trial, 13 are awaiting committal or transfer and 18 are under investigation.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Maxwell scandal among the 59 or are the Government not interested in them, like Peter Walker and other fat cats, who made money out of the Mirror group pensioners? Is it not a scandal that an ex-Tory Minister who graced the Front Bench picked up £440,000 and a Mercedes and, instead of asking him to give the money back to the pensioners, the Prime Minister has given him a job and a peerage? What a scandal!

The Attorney-General

To answer the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, he may not have noticed—but I think that everyone else in the House has—that the Maxwell case is under investigation, arrests were made recently and the investigation continues. On the second part of his question, the hon. Gentleman is free to scatter allegations in the House, but I think that his constituents and those who come from the good working-class stock of which he prides himself, would prefer the careful and impartial investigation of the Serious Fraud Office to the approach that he has taken in asking his question.

Mr. John Moris

Is the Attorney-General aware of the concern that has recently been expressed, particularly by the Bar, on the method, timing and publicity given to some arrests involving the SFO? Is it necessary frequently to arrest in the early hours of the morning, with press and television in attendance? In order to ensure that our procedures, from the moment of arrest, are seen to be fair, will the Attorney-General consult the Director of Public Prosecutions, the director of the Serious Fraud Office and his right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary to consider whether it would be appropriate to issue guidelines to minimise concern and ensure that both the public interest and the rights of the individual are fully protected?

The Attorney-General

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will probably have seen my recent written answer to him dealing with the matter. One understands and shares the desire not to inflict unnecessary humiliation on any potential defendant. However, such matters are operational matters for the police, and the versatile critics might well ask themselves what they would say if a potential defendant, having been accorded a particular privilege, were then unable to be arrested.