Bribery and Corruption
Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General
11:30 am

Photo of Yvonne Fovargue

Yvonne Fovargue (Opposition Whip (Commons); Makerfield, Labour)

What recent discussions he has had with the director of the Serious Fraud Office on its procedures for investigating cases of bribery and corruption.

Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe

Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford South, Labour)

What recent discussions he has had with the Director of the Serious Fraud Office on its procedures for investigating cases of bribery and corruption.

Photo of Dominic Grieve

Dominic Grieve (The Attorney-General; Beaconsfield, Conservative)

I hold monthly meetings with the director of the Serious Fraud Office to discuss all aspects of the SFO’s work, including what it is doing to counter bribery and corruption. The Bribery Act 2010 came into force on 1 July 2011, and the SFO was well prepared for that. The SFO website provides detailed information, including joint prosecution guidance from the director of the SFO and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Photo of Yvonne Fovargue

Yvonne Fovargue (Opposition Whip (Commons); Makerfield, Labour)

No has faced prosecution as a result of the global financial collapse. Does the Attorney-General think that that is because there was no wrongdoing, because the SFO is not doing its job, or because we need a change in the law?

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Dominic Grieve (The Attorney-General; Beaconsfield, Conservative)

I have no evidence that there is any need for a change in the law. As and when matters are brought to the attention of the police or the SFO that require investigation and that may be linked to the global collapse, they will be investigated and inquired into. She will appreciate that I am not in a position to comment on individual cases in the House for obvious reasons.

Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe

Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford South, Labour)

Is the Attorney-General not a little complacent, because the Bribery Act is a new measure that came into force in 2011? There is concern around the world about the way in which global markets have operated, so the SFO should at least have a look at changes that might need to be made to the law.

Photo of Dominic Grieve

Dominic Grieve (The Attorney-General; Beaconsfield, Conservative)

The law on bribery and corruption has been looked at extensively by the House, and new legislation has been enacted. I believe—and I think that this view is shared across the House—that the legislation is fit for purpose. It has been applied in one case domestically, and no doubt it will be applied in cases concerning global finance, too. As I said in response to the previous question, unfortunately, I cannot comment on individual cases, but I have seen nothing in my routine business meetings with the Serious Fraud Office to make me think that this is an area—I understand that it is of concern to the House—that has in some way been overlooked.

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Peter Tapsell (Father of the House of Commons; Louth and Horncastle, Conservative)

Following the two questions that I put to the Prime Minister on this subject, will the Attorney-General liaise with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to widen the scope of liability for criminal action against financial institutions, as in the recently passed Dodd-Frank Act in the United States, so that the concept of the presiding mind can be introduced into British law, thus greatly facilitating the prosecution of top bankers who in future behave in a disgraceful way?

Photo of Dominic Grieve

Dominic Grieve (The Attorney-General; Beaconsfield, Conservative)

I thank my right hon. Friend for that. Section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010 already goes some way in the direction of what he suggests. In addition to that, I know that the Law Commission is carrying out research into this area, and I look forward to seeing its conclusions on what changes to the law might be required.

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Emily Thornberry (Shadow Attorney General; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

The Attorney-General will recall that he once said about a case of bribery in Saudi Arabia that decisions balancing the national interest and the need to prosecute should lie with the director of the Serious Fraud Office alone. Indeed, as he has already said, there was cross-party support for Labour’s Bribery Act which enshrined that in law. If this is still his view, will he be instructing the Serious Fraud Office to proceed with a full investigation into the allegations by whistleblower Lieutenant Colonel Foxley of £11.5 million in kickbacks paid to senior Saudi officials? When does he expect to make a decision on the case of GPT? If he decides to stop the case, will he come to the House and explain why?

Photo of Dominic Grieve

Dominic Grieve (The Attorney-General; Beaconsfield, Conservative)

May I make two points to the hon. Lady? First, a decision on whether to investigate any matter—I am afraid I cannot comment on an individual case—is a matter for the director of the Serious Fraud Office and the Serious Fraud Office itself. Secondly, if, in the course of such an investigation, issues concerning the public interest were to come to light that required my being consulted and any decision being made, I can assure the hon. Lady that I would come to inform the House of any decision that I took, particularly if any such decision at any time were in any way to override a decision of the director of the Serious

Fraud Office, or if there was a public interest matter which led to the case coming to a conclusion other than that which one might have expected.