The Serious Fraud Office does vital work in tackling some of the most serious instances of fraud, bribery and corruption. The SFO will continue, as an independent organisation, to conduct its own investigations and prosecutions of some of the most serious and complex economic crime, and a recruitment campaign is now under way for its next director.
Merry Christmas to you as well, Mr Speaker.
I am grateful to the Attorney General for his response about the Government’s plans for the future of the SFO. However, following the Home Secretary’s written statement last week, will the Attorney General clarify how the SFO will continue to operate free from ministerial interference when tasked to investigate by the National Crime Agency?
We demonstrate here that no one is overlooked at Christmas.
The hon. Gentleman is right that the Home Secretary’s announcement was that on occasion tasking powers will be used by the NCA to ask the SFO to investigate particular matters. I suspect that they will be used very rarely, and they can be used only with the consent both of the Home Secretary and of me; and I do not expect that this will compromise the SFO’s independence in any way. Indeed, the Solicitor General and I are assiduous in ensuring that, both in choice of cases to investigate and in decisions to prosecute, the independence of the director of the SFO is preserved, and it still will be.
That should not happen, but I know that my right hon. Friend will recognise that these are, by their nature, complex investigations and that it can take the SFO a large amount of time to get through all the relevant material in order to make a judgment. If he has a specific case in mind, I am sure that he will let me know so that I can look into it.
I rather agree with the hon. Gentleman, and his experience as police and crime commissioner will underline what he has just said. We need to do more, and we are. There is a joint fraud taskforce, as he may know, which involves not just the criminal justice agencies but the banks and other organisations. In addition, the Home Secretary has announced the creation of the National Economic Crime Centre, which will do a better job of co-ordinating our activities against economic crime of all kinds.