HC Deb 11 May 1992 vol 207 cc365-6
28. Mr. Winnick

To ask the Attorney-General when he last met the Director of Public Prosecutions to discuss criminal proceedings against companies alleged to have misappropriated pension funds.

The Attorney-General

I meet the Director of Public Prosecutions frequently, but she is not currently prosecuting any such companies. The Serious Fraud Office is investigating or prosecuting a number of cases concerning pension funds.

Mr. Winnick

Is it not extraordinary that no prosecutions have so far occurred relating to the way in which so many pensioners in the Maxwell companies have been swindled out of their pension rights and entitlements? That is quite unacceptable—[Interruption.] I do not need any lectures from Tory Members on that subject.

Will the Attorney-General give an assurance that there will be no cover-up of what occurred in the Maxwell companies? Pensioners of those companies want justice and they are determined that there will be justice and that their pension rights will be restored.

The Attorney-General

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the allegations in the Maxwell case and the general matters arising out of it are being carefully and professionally investigated by a special team with particular funding. It would be wrong for me to go beyond that.

Mr. Harris

I heartily endorse everything said by the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick). Those of us with constituents who were swindled out of their pension rights in that appalling case know of the anguish that they have suffered. Does my right hon. and learned Friend recall that the Queen's counsel who represented one of the Maxwell brothers before the Social Security Select Committee of which I was a member said that his client should not have to answer questions because he was on the threshold of being charged? I remind my right hon. and learned Friend that that was on 13 January.

The Attorney-General

The seriousness of the issues are well understood by all right hon. and hon. Members, and that is why it is particularly important that they should be expertly, professionally and carefully investigated. I assure my hon. Friend and the House that that is exactly what is happening.

Mr. John Morris

I congratulate the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General on their appointment. It is within the recollection of right hon. and hon. Members that counsel told the Social Security Select Committee that charges would be brought in the near future. What is the current view of the Serious Fraud Office? Was that Queen's counsel right, or was he not?

The Attorney-General

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will recall that the QC in question was the counsel for the defence, with no authority to speak one way or the other for the prosecution. I repeat that the matter is being carefully, expeditiously and skilfully investigated. It would be wrong for me to say more at this stage.