Wednesday 20 November 2019

Firms linked to rogue investigators may remain secret

David Hughes and Jamie Grierson

The names of firms linked to rogue private investigators could be kept secret to avoid compromising any investigations being carried out by the police, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has said.

Keith Vaz said he wanted to reveal the names of the organisations on the list and could do so using parliamentary privilege, but had been told the Information Commissioner and Metrpolitan Police may be interested in investigating the companies involved.


The identities of the firms involved have not yet been revealed, although Mr Vaz's committee has released a breakdown of the sectors they work in, including law, oil, rail services and the security industry.


Mr Vaz told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I don't think that Parliament should be part of a 'secret squirrel' club where we are given a list that is important and should be in the public interest and we are not able to publish it.


"The reason that we can't publish it at the moment - though I am consulting with members of the committee and we will come to a view on this - is because we are told that both the Information Commissioner and the Metropolitan Police may be interested in investigating the 94 companies, firms, individuals that are on the second list."


A final decision on whether to release the names would be taken when the committee publishes its report, he said.


"The deadline, if you like, is when we publish our report into private investigators, we would like to be in a position where we publish the entire list. But we don't want to compromise any investigation that the Metropolitan Police may or may not be involved in."


Mr Vaz said the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) and the police would appear before the committee on September 3 to update members on progress.


"We want to be responsible," he said.


Put to him that the police could keep the committee "stringing along forever", Mr Vaz said: "That is the balance. This list has been around for a number of years and nobody has done anything about it."


He added: "Frankly, what it just needs is somebody to go along to the 94. This can be cleared up quite quickly. You should ask the firms involved did they know that the rogue investigators were getting illegal information, were they acting illegally.


"If yes, then you have to consider criminal liability. If no, then you cross them off.


"These companies, individuals and firms don't even know they are on this list."


Mr Vaz added that his committee "want to be responsible" in the way they decide to act.


"The real root of all this, of course, is we need to regulate about private investigators. We recommended this a year ago, it's not happened and hopefully the Government will finally join the debate by doing something about it."

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