HC Deb 12 February 2004 vol 417 cc1552-3W
Mr. Hawkins

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he is taking in relation to Customs and Excise following the most recent developments in the London City Bond and Operation Puma cases, with particular reference to its prosecution function; what steps he is taking in relation to the disclosure of information by HM Customs and Excise to the Butterfield Inquiry into this matter; and if he will make a statement. [154653]

John Healey

As I announced in written statements of 15 July 2003,Official Report, column 18WS, and 8 December 2003, Official Report, column 72WS, the Government have accepted the recommendations contained in Mr. Justice Butterfield's report on his review of criminal investigations and prosecutions conducted by HM Customs and Excise, which was published in full on 15 July 2003 and is available in the Library of the House. His recommendations on the future conduct of prosecutions of cases investigated by HM Customs and Excise, including the separation of the prosecuting function from Customs (begun in April 2001 in line with the recommendations of the Gower-Hammond review in 2000–01), are being implemented with the creation of an independent Customs and Excise Prosecutions Office reporting to the Attorney-General.

Mr. Justice Butterfield received total co-operation from Customs officers, as he recognised in his report. In the course of its review of London City Bond-related convictions last year Customs continued to trawl all areas of the Department for any material of potential relevance both to ongoing appeals against conviction and to the issues examined by Mr. Justice Butterfield. Further disclosable material that was uncovered was passed directly to the Metropolitan Police to assist their investigation into the circumstances of the collapse of the London City Bond cases and to Mr. Justice Butterfield for his consideration. Although Customs had already indicated that it would not be contesting their appeals, Customs also disclosed that material to all the appellants in the Operation Puma case on 28 January 2004.