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Departmental Inquiries

Volume 893: debated on Monday 9 June 1975

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asked the Attorney-General what further inquiries undertaken by his Department have not yet been completed.


asked the Attorney-General what is the number of inquiries undertaken by his Department that have not yet been completed.

It is not clear to me what type of inquiries my hon. Friends have in mind. My Department rarely undertakes inquiries.

Will the Attorney-General say whether the Poulson inquiries are still continuing? Has he seen the letter in The Times today from Mr. Muir Hunter, counsel for the Poulson creditors, about remarks concerning outstanding materials still to be quarried? Does he still hold the view which he expressed last November, when speaking to the Oxford Labour Club, that 300 people have question marks over their names arising from the Poulson inquiry, including, presumably, the Shadow Foreign Secretary?

The answer to the first two questions put by my hon. Friend is "Yes". The answer to the third question is that the number of 300 has in the meantime diminished.

Since the Attorney-General's Department is responsible for inquiries conducted by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and since that Department plays a vital rôle in maintaining public confidence in the administration of the law, will he assure the House that the DPP's office will be adequately staffed and will have a structure to ensure that it can fulfil its rôle efficiently and speedily?

There is great difficulty in filling the legal establishment of Government Departments generally, and particularly the one which my hon. Friend mentioned. I am grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to say that work of that kind is extremely rewarding.

Will the Attorney-General make clear his function and that of the DPP in this matter? Is it not correct that the DPP conducts no inquiries himself but may direct that inquiries be conducted? There seems to be a great deal of ignorance in the House as to the exact functions of the Attorney-General's Department and of the DPP in relation to inquiries of this nature.

The inquiries are of various kinds in relation to the Poulson case, to which I assume the hon. and learned Gentleman is referring. Such inquiries may be conducted by the Department of Trade or by the police. The Director of Public Prosecutions advises, and in necessary cases conducts the prosecution.