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Serious Fraud Office

Volume 592: debated on Tuesday 10 February 2015

4. What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the future of the Serious Fraud Office. (907530)

10. What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the future of the Serious Fraud Office. (907536)

I meet the Home Secretary regularly to discuss issues of common interest. The UK anti-corruption plan, published in December, announced that the Cabinet Office will take forward a review of the enforcement response to bribery and corruption more broadly and will report to the inter-ministerial group on anti-corruption in June.

Is the Attorney-General concerned that there is now a conflict, with the Solicitor-General allegedly involved in tax avoidance schemes? [Interruption.] Can he properly oversee the work of the Serious Fraud Office, given its role in prosecuting serious fraud and tax evasion? [Interruption.]

Order. I fear that, in so far as I could hear, the terms of the question did not engage with the question on the Order Paper. Therefore—forgive me—I do not think that it would be proper to ask for an answer.

In view of the fact that the police are being ineffective in prosecuting fraud, and given that reports to Action Fraud have gone up by 10%, what is the Attorney-General doing to ensure that the Serious Fraud Office has sufficient resources to deal with the most complex frauds? How much money has it got from fraudsters to enable it to fund future work?

The hon. Lady is right to refer to the fact that there are different kinds of fraud, which are dealt with in different ways in our system. The Serious Fraud Office, which falls within the ambit of the Law Officers’ superintendence, deals with the most exceptionally complex cases of fraud. To answer her question directly, in this financial year the Serious Fraud Office has recovered financial orders of £10.7 million. It is right to point out also that the way in which the Serious Fraud Office is funded is unusual. It relies on some core funding and also on what is called blockbuster funding for unanticipated, large and complex cases. I think that that is the right way to do it.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that the invitation from some to subsume the Serious Fraud Office into the National Crime Agency is not one that he will accede to?

There is huge value always in looking at the way in which Government agencies do their business and in finding efficiencies and changes if it is beneficial to do so, but I think the Roskill model on which the Serious Fraud Office is based—that is, the combination of lawyers, investigators, prosecutors, accountants and the like, all in multidisciplinary teams—is a sensible model, and it is delivering effective results.

With the Serious Fraud Office doing some incredibly complex investigations into companies such as Barclays, Tesco and G4S, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that there is a need for very close working between the Serious Fraud Office and other Government agencies, such as the NCA, the police and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs?

I agree with my hon. Friend. Close working is always important and the Serious Fraud Office tries to do that. I am sure the intergovernment review will find better ways of co-ordinating if there are better ways to be found.