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.
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.
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.
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?
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.