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Insider Dealing

Volume 115: debated on Wednesday 29 April 1987

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10.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action he has taken on information so far received from the inspectors he has appointed to inquire into insider dealing at the Department of Trade and Industry.

I have received no information from the inspectors which calls for action on my part. Any question of prosecution in this case would be a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is being kept informed of the progress of the inspection.

The Government are not convincing the public that everything is now in order — quite the contrary. Surely we need the high-profile techniques of the United States regulatory authorities, which send shivers down the spines of those who are brought in for questioning, and not polite phone calls from DTI inspectors? Criminologists have shown that arrest has the greatest impact on white-collar criminals, not the softly-softly approach of the Government and the DTI.

The powers of the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate insider dealing are less than those that are available to our investigators, and it is noteworthy that during the passage of the Financial Services Act no Opposition Member suggested a single additional power to investigate insider dealing over and above those that are contained in the Act, which are being used.

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that not only were the Government responsible for making insider deaing a criminal offence and enhancing the powers of investigation under successive legislation, but that, considering the volume of highly commercial confidential information that passes over the desks of officials in the Department of Trade and Industry, we are remarkably fortunate in this country in enjoying a high degree of integrity among officials, which has become evident over recent years?

I very much agree with my hon. Friend's observations, which I greatly welcome.

Did the Minister note last month's statement by Tesco that it is bringing forward its hid for Hillards because insider dealing had shoved up the price of the shares of Hillards by one quarter in the preceding month? How do the Government hope to stop these scandals in the City if they cannot bring to book the insider dealers in their own Department?

The hon. Gentleman should await the outcome of the inspection to which I earlier referred before he leaps to such unwarranted conclusions. If there is any information arising out of the other matter to which he referred that warrants consideration in the Department it will receive that consideration and any appropriate actions will be taken.