HC Deb 02 February 1949 vol 460 cc232-3W
57 and 58. Brigadier Thorp

asked the Minister of Food (1) what was the total cost to the taxpayer of operation Octopus;

(2) what arrests were made as the result of operation Octopus

Mr. Strachey

An investigation was started by my Department in October last into a reported large-scale black market in food centering on Newcastle. It is, of course, part of the duties of the Department to investigate such reports as closely as possible, whenever these reports appear serious and circumstantial.

Early in December, however, it became apparent that these particular inquiries were unlikely to be brought to a successful conclusion or to result in prosecutions or arrests. I decided that they should be abandoned at that point. I did so because to have continued them would have involved the further use of methods of inquiry of which I could not approve. These methods went beyond the use of test purchases, which are a procedure which must sometimes be used by enforcement officers of my Department. I have set on foot a thorough inquiry within my Department as to the circumstances of, and the responsibility for, the methods used in the investigation up to the time at which it was stopped.

I am glad to say that the investigation before it was stopped had already established a prima facie case that the original report of large-scale organised black market activities in the north-east coast area had little foundation in fact. In that respect the investigation served a useful purpose. The net cost will be approximately £2,200.