Oral Answers to Questions — Director of Public Prosecutions

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th April 1976.

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Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West 12:00 am, 5th April 1976

asked the Attorney-General whether he is satisfied with the current procedures and practices of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

asked the Attorney-General if he is satisfied with the facilities operated by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Photo of Mr John Stonehouse Mr John Stonehouse , Walsall North

asked the Attorney-General if he is satisfied with the procedures adopted by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Photo of Hon. Sam Silkin Hon. Sam Silkin , Southwark Dulwich

I have no reason to be dissatisfied with the procedures and practices for which I have ministerial responsibility.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there is dissatisfaction with some of the cases coming before our courts today, in respect of which it is believed that a great deal of public money is being wasted which could be saved? Will he consider his responsibilities in that direction? Will he also comment on the recent suggestion by the Minister of State, Home Office that the Director of Public Prosecutions might be very much widened and that we might have an independent prosecutor for virtually all our cases in the country?

Photo of Hon. Sam Silkin Hon. Sam Silkin , Southwark Dulwich

On the first point, my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor and I are very much concerned about the cost particularly of providing legal aid, and we are constantly reviewing legal aid and the existing means of giving it.

As to the second part of my hon. Friend's Question, suggesting a public prosecution service generally, the Government will no doubt be going into that matter, and they will be making a statement on it at some time in the future, although I cannot say when this will be. My hon. Friend will understand that it is a matter for which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is primarily responsible.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

Will my right hon. and learned Friend tell us whether the Director of Public Prosecutions has the necessary facilities to conclude the inquiries into the aftermath of the Poulson affair? Has the Fraud Squad, for instance, yet been able to contact Kenneth Williams, the ex-director, in Saudi Arabia, and also the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) of the IPCS, a Poulson subsidiary, about the allegations with respect to the Gozo hospital project?

Photo of Hon. Sam Silkin Hon. Sam Silkin , Southwark Dulwich

On the latter part of my hon. Friend's question, it is a matter which is now sub judice, in view of certain proceedings which are to take place this week.

On the first part of the question, while the Director and his staff do the work assigned to them as well as they can, it is a fact, as I have mentioned before, that they are short of staff. This is an area in which there are very rewarding opportunities for lawyers who are not engaged in private practice.

Photo of Mr John Stonehouse Mr John Stonehouse , Walsall North

Is the Attorney-General aware that his supine replies to the original Question are what we expect of him? Is he not aware that the Directorate of Public Prosecutions is headed by a geriatric who is well beyond the retirement age and is given to making ridiculous decisions about prosecutions—given that 25 per cent, of the prosecutions at the Old Bailey result in acquittals? Do we not have current examples of his lunacy in approving prosecutions that do not have any future whatsoever in them? Will the Attorney-General not assert himself and ensure that the time of the courts, the time of the police and the time of all the other individuals involved in these persecutions is saved by his ensuring that the Directorate does not behave in this thoroughly irresponsible way?

Photo of Hon. Sam Silkin Hon. Sam Silkin , Southwark Dulwich

I am glad that I live up to the right hon. Member's expectations, and I am sorry that the Director does not.