Skip to main content

Arms Trade: Al Yamamah

Volume 688: debated on Monday 22 January 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which Ministers communicated with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), or on whose behalf communications were sent to the SFO, about the investigation of offences of corruption in relation to Saudi Arabian arms contracts; and whether they will place copies of these communications in the Library of the House. [HL1089]

In December 2005, in accordance with the well established procedure known as a Shawcross exercise, I sought views from ministerial colleagues as to the public interest considerations raised by the SFO investigation. Such views were provided in December 2005 by the Prime Minister and the then Foreign and Defence Secretaries and updated in September 2006. Further such views were provided by the Prime Minister and the Foreign and Defence Secretaries in December 2006. I conveyed those views to the director of the SFO but (apart from the Solicitor-General and myself) no Ministers communicated directly with the SFO. In addition the Leader of the House of Commons raised the case with me in November 2006. The decision to discontinue the investigation was taken by the SFO in its capacity as the independent prosecuting and investigating authority.

The communications contain material which is sensitive from the point of view of national security so I am not in a position to place copies in the Library. However, consideration is being given to the question of disclosure in the context of requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Under what statutory authority the Prime Minister used his executive power to order the termination of investigations of possible corruption in dealings between BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia relating to defence contracts; whether there are any precedents for such use of executive power; and, if so, what are those precedents; and [HL1440]

What legal or other advice the Prime Minister sought before the decision was taken to terminate investigations of possible corruption in dealings between BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia relating to defence contracts; and [HL1441]

Whether the Cabinet was consulted before the decision was taken to terminate investigations of possible corruption in dealings between BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia relating to defence contracts. [HL1442]

The Prime Minister did not order the termination of the investigation. The decision to terminate the investigation was taken by the director of the Serious Fraud Office. The Cabinet was not consulted about that decision but, as explained in my Statement of 14 December 2006, the views of the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary were obtained as to the public interest considerations raised by the investigation. This was done in accordance with the well established procedure known as a Shawcross exercise.