Corporate Economic Crime - Westminster Hall

Rose to speak at 10:01 am

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Kate Osamor (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound) for securing the debate.

Like many of my hon. Friends here today, I was disappointed to learn that the Government appear to have dropped their plans to introduce a corporate liability offence. By going back on their manifesto pledge to prosecute economic crime, this Government are pandering to corporations. They are not following through on their promise to tackle tax evasion. They are not adequately holding corporate criminals to account, in the same manner as other criminals. After the crash of 2008, the public have a right to expect those who launder money, defraud or commit other white-collar crimes to be brought to justice. The bail-out cost UK taxpayers £133 billion—more than £2,000 per person.

As the Attorney General identified in September 2014, in the modern economy, economic crime is more pervasive than ever. According to the Financial Conduct Authority, white-collar crime is estimated to cause the UK losses of more than £40 billion a year. The number of defendants prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office and the City of London police has fallen by a fifth since 2011, despite an increase in tip-offs. Figures from June 2014 show that the number of leads reported to Action Fraud—a national crime reporting centre that is part of the City of London police force—had jumped 46% year on year. According to Pinsent Masons, the Serious Fraud Office received more than 2,000 reports of suspected white-collar crime from whistleblowers last year.

The clear disparity between the evidence of rising economic crime and rising tip-offs and the falling number of prosecutions highlights the fact that the mechanisms in place are not working. Current legislation is inadequate to prosecute economic crime. That point is acknowledged by the SFO’s director, David Green, who would support extending section 7 of the Bribery Act. The Government’s lack of political will to address this issue is acting against the public interest.

Stephen Pound: My hon. Friend makes an important point when she talks about existing legislation but an absence of will. When deferred prosecution agreements were introduced, as part of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, we could have gone the way of the United States, which uses them with great skill and effectiveness, but for some reason not a single DPA has been signed off in this country. Does she agree that that is an example of where the legislation exists, but the will demonstrably does not?

Kate Osamor: That is a fantastic point, and I totally agree.

I end by urging the Government both to honour their manifesto pledge to tackle economic crime and to reassess their rejection of extending the Bribery Act to cover all kinds of economic crime.

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Kate Osamor MP

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