New Clause 8 - Financial Crime Unit

Part of Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 16 Ebrill 2013.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury) 2:15, 16 Ebrill 2013

It is certainly true that we tabled the new clause to spark a debate about the adequacy of the SFO and its capability of grappling with what has been an  enormous problem in recent years. Members of all parties will recognise that the prosecuting and investigating authorities really struggle to play catch-up with the intricacy and ingenuity of financial crime. These are not the sort of crimes where it is easy for an officer of the law to spot that a crime has been committed. These crimes are often hidden in electronic data, with vast amounts of insider knowledge squirreled away far from the public’s gaze. That can often have a massive effect on the well-being not just of the companies affected, but downstream on our constituents and society as a whole, so it is important that we get a grip on the SFO's capability of dealing with financial crime.

I accept the Minister’s point that there is a debate to be had on whether the right approach would be specifically to have a new subdivision in the SFO in this way, but some sort of dedicated resource that is earmarked for financial services crime, as opposed to corporate crime or fraud more broadly, would be worth while, not least because it could attract more support from the Treasury and across Whitehall in general. Such support has been missing from a lot of the SFO's work in recent years, and considering the public’s interest in seeing prosecutions brought to fruition, we know that the SFO found itself in great difficulties when pursuing some of the Icelandic issues. They were never really brought to fruition and many local authorities and others went through serious financial difficulties as a result. We have to raise the profile of this issue, and one way of doing that would be through a financial crime unit.

I am happy to take away the new clause at this stage, notwithstanding the fact that we want to see more action on the matter. However, the Minister indicated that he is looking at the SFO's ability to call on the special reserve, which was interesting, and I would like to look at that in more detail. I do not have enough granular detail about what has been happening over the most recent years, particularly the level of prosecutions in financial services in which the SFO has been engaged, and it would be worth while seeing some of those data, and data on the level of performance. Perhaps the national crime agency, in its relationship with the SFO, could provide an opportunity to take stock of how well the SFO is doing.

We need more action; things are not good enough as they stand. We made our point as forcefully as we could and we encourage the Minister to take this issue away. We will doubtless want to return to it in future, but I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.