Classified Information (Legal Proceedings)

Oral Answers to Questions — Solicitor-General for Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th January 1987.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow 12:00 am, 14th January 1987

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland how, in considering possible legal proceedings arising from alleged breaches of confidentiality in relation to classified information, the Lord Advocate distinguishes between his roles as prosecutor in criminal proceedings and as nominal plaintiff in civil proceedings.

Photo of Mr Peter Fraser Mr Peter Fraser , Angus East

My noble and learned Friend the Lord Advocate, in deciding whether to prosecute any alleged offence relating to the disclosure of classified information, exercises a discretion as public prosecutor wholly independently of the Government. In acting in civil proceedings to restrain such disclosure, he does so on the authority of the Crown or of the appropriate public Department in terms of the Crown Suits (Scotland) Act 1857.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Does the Solicitor-General for Scotland find it difficult to agree that the Lord Advocate and Kerr Fraser would have made an altogether much better job than did Sir Robert Armstrong, for the Attorney-General, in the Wright case?

Photo of Mr Peter Fraser Mr Peter Fraser , Angus East

I share the hon. Gentleman's views of the abilities of Sir William Kerr Fraser. It would be entirely wrong, however, for me to draw any comparisons between him and Sir Robert Armstrong.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

Will the Solicitor-General for Scotland say in how many instances either he or the Lord Advocate has had to take no part in legal proceedings because of a conflict of interest or because of some other activity that he or his noble and learned Friend undertakes, such as being a Commissioner of Northern Lighthouses? Is the example that I have given an isolated one, or are there a number of different areas of public offices or other activities where the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor-General for Scotland have a conflict of roles?

Photo of Mr Peter Fraser Mr Peter Fraser , Angus East

I cannot think immediately of any other situation where there might be a conflict of interest. In the instance to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, I am not entirely sure that there was a conflict of interest. To avoid any apparent disagreement or any apparent indication that we had acted with some impropriety, both my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate and I declined to take any part in the case to which the hon. Gentleman has referred.