HC Deb 31 October 1994 vol 248 cc1205-6
30. Mr. Mike O'Brien

To ask the Attorney-General what representations he has received in the last month about the impact of decisions he has made on the former workers at Matrix Churchill.

The Attorney-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell)

I have received only one representation on this matter. It arrived from the hon. Gentleman this morning.

Mr. O'Brien

I just wanted to be sure that the Attorney-General did not forget, as national newspapers seem to have forgotten, that hundreds of Matrix Churchill workers lost their jobs as a result of his decision to prosecute the directors. If he has any sympathy for those workers, many of whom are my constituents, will he say that, if the Government are criticised in the Scott report, he and the Government will take steps to ensure that those workers and their families are compensated for the loss of their livelihood which arose as a result of their decision?

The Attorney-General

Without being unsympathetic to the workers, I should like to say that the hon. Gentleman should not start rewriting history. First, he knows that Customs and Excise is an independent prosecuting authority and took its decision in that capacity some 18 months before I became significantly involved. Secondly, he has understandably already ventilated his views on the matter—in a debate on 14 April this year involving his hon. Friends, my hon. Friends and the Department of Trade and Industry.

Mr. Matthew Banks

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm and make it clear to the House that the decision to prosecute in this case was taken early in 1991 before any reference was made to my right hon. and learned Friend? Will he also confirm that, in any case, he would not normally be involved in such a decision to prosecute, given that Customs and Excise is an independent prosecuting authority?

The Attorney-General

My hon. Friend is right on both of those two points. There was an 18-month gap between the two. Any future questions on this matter must await the views of the inquiry and Lord Justice Scott.