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Serious Fraud Office

Volume 578: debated on Tuesday 25 March 2014

7. What recent discussions he has had with the director of the Serious Fraud Office on funding arrangements for that agency. (903270)

I meet the director of the Serious Fraud Office regularly to discuss a range of matters, including finance. The SFO has a current core budget to enable it to carry out its work, but the nature of that work means that it will need additional funding from time to time for its very largest and most complex investigations and prosecutions, such as those relating to LIBOR. As with any other department, the principal arrangement is for the SFO to apply for any additional funding that is required during the year through the estimates process, as it has recently done.

As the Attorney-General has just explained, because the SFO is so underfunded, every time a major case comes along it must go cap in hand to the Chancellor for more funds. David Green, the director of the SFO, has described the arrangement as

“a mystery…inside an enigma”,

and has told the Justice Committee that he is

“keen that an appropriate and more certain funding model can be agreed by all those with an interest.”

Will the Attorney-General do as the director has repeatedly asked, and review the funding arrangements?

If I may say so, I always keep the funding arrangements under review, and I am always happy to discuss them with my colleagues in the Treasury. The nature of the SFO’s work load is very flexible, and I therefore think it almost inevitable that if it is to do its work effectively, there will be occasions when it will need extra funding, or will require funding in excess of what it needs. This is an interesting balance which we need to look at. That said, I am mindful of the fact that there may be other ways in which the funding can be delivered and I discuss that frequently with the director of the Serious Fraud Office.