The Serious Fraud Office is a small and demand-led organisation that comprises investigators, prosecutors, accountants and other specialists. The model, which is known as the Roskill model, gives the director of the SFO the flexibility to have the right combination of expertise to tackle the most complex and large cases. The current blockbuster funding approach allows him to take on cases that are exceptionally demanding in terms of resource, such as the LIBOR case, while avoiding the need to constantly maintain high levels of permanent staff, which are not always necessary.
Attractive though that proposal sounds—I take it in the constructive spirit which I know the hon. Gentleman intends—my worry is that that is an even more uncertain means of funding the SFO. The advantage of blockbuster funding is that it allows the SFO the flexibility it needs, allows significant amounts of money to be allocated to its work, and proves the point that funding will never be a bar to the work of the SFO in investigating serious fraud.
I think the Solicitor General is telling us that he is not all that keen on the idea, if one interprets the lawyer-speak.
The Solicitor General may know of my long-term interest in this matter. We all want a Serious Fraud Office that is fit for purpose; this Serious Fraud Office is not. We go back to the catastrophe that was the daft prosecution and dawn arrest of the Tchenguiz brothers. As he knows, if we have a weak SFO, it relies on other accountants, such as Grant Thornton. That is not a healthy relationship for the SFO.
The hon. Gentleman is right to refer to previous failures, but things have moved on considerably in the right direction since the appointment of the current director in 2012. It is important that we give our full-throated support to the work of the SFO because, as the hon. Gentleman says, if there are doubts about the integrity and efficacy of that important arm of the prosecutorial authorities, we are in serious trouble indeed. I hope he will recognise that progress is being made.
I do not have chapter and verse on international comparators today for my hon. Friend, but I am more than happy to have that discussion with him. The Roskill model, which allows prosecutors and investigators to work hand in hand, is essential when it comes to this type of offending. It works and it must continue to be supported. Whatever the framework within it, that model of investigation is very important.