HC Deb 26 January 1999 vol 324 cc140-2
33. Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)

What is the cost to date in legal fees to British public funds of the attempt to extradite General Pinochet; and if he will make a statement. [65861]

The Minister of State, Lord Chancellors Department (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon)

Before the case is concluded, it is difficult to give a reliable indication of costs. The costs of the Crown Prosecution Service cannot yet be separated out because CPS staff are engaged in a variety of cases at any time. However, the fees of counsel instructed by the Treasury Solicitors Department are £105,000, of which £18,000 is recoverable under a costs order made against Senator Pinochet in the divisional court.

Mr. Mullin

Can my hon. Friend assure the House that in the unhappy event of General Pinochet's managing to escape extradition, his legal bills will be rigorously scrutinised before they are passed on to the taxpayer?

Mr. Hoon

I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. Given the history of this case, the question of who should pay any costs, and in what proportion, is inevitably difficult and rather complex, especially before the case is finally resolved. The matter will ultimately be for their lordships to decide—perhaps after further legal proceedings.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)

How much did Lord Hoffmann's failure to declare his interest cost public funds? The Minister will recall the fuss about the Scott inquiry in the previous Parliament. Why, in this Parliament, must the President of the Board of Trade resign because he failed to declare an interest, while a judge such as Lord Hoffmann, who had a direct personal interest in the case, gets off literally scot free?

Mr. Hoon

The question of who should pay those costs and those parts of the costs will be a matter for their lordships to determine at the conclusion of the case. I am not able to assist the hon. Gentleman further on that point at this stage.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Is my hon. Friend aware that, whatever public money is spent, it will be well justified in trying to bring a former criminal dictator to justice—

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Member knows the sub judice rule in the House. That question was quite unnecessary. I had hoped that it would be rather more positive, and deal with legal fees, as the original question demands.

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