Devolution

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 15th November 2005.

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Photo of David Cairns David Cairns Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Scotland Office

The Advocate-General has had a further 74 devolution issues intimated to her since 18 October.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

Is the Minister aware of the serious situation arising from the fact that the permanent regulations on Scottish legal aid have not yet been passed by the Scottish Legal Aid Board and the Scottish Executive, meaning that many counsel have to withdraw from representing clients, especially in appeal cases? Not only are their expenses not being met, but it is costing them money to represent clients in those circumstances. Will the Minister make urgent representations to the Advocate-General, the Lord Advocate and the Executive to ensure that those regulations, which were due to be adopted in September, will be passed at the earliest opportunity?

Photo of David Cairns David Cairns Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Scotland Office

The hon. Lady asked a question in connection with legal aid at the last Scotland questions and I shall give her the same answer as she received then: issues to do with legal aid are devolved to the Scottish Executive and it is entirely a matter for them.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Parliamentary Leader (Westminster), Spokesperson (Constitutional Affairs; Treasury), Leader, Scottish National Party

What advice was sought or given by the Advocate-General on the Government's terrorism legislation? We know that the Home Secretary, in an arrogant and dismissive attitude to Scots law, did not seek the advice of the Lord Advocate and we know that, in a craven way, neither the Lord Advocate nor the First Minister offered advice. The Advocate-General has a role in those matters, so will the Minister tell us whether she was treated in the same dismissive and contemptuous way?

Photo of David Cairns David Cairns Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Scotland Office

The Advocate-General is a UK Law Officer and as such takes part in a wide range of discussions on all aspects of UK law. Terrorism legislation is entirely a reserved matter. Discussions took place between officials at the Home Office and the Crown Office on how the issues would be implemented, but they are reserved matters and it was for the House to decide.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Surely the Advocate-General should at least have suggested to the Home Secretary that he speak to the Lord Advocate about those matters. Is not the embarrassment now shared by the Home Secretary and the Lord Advocate, because of the failure to consult, the responsibility of the Advocate-General?

Photo of David Cairns David Cairns Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Scotland Office

No, this is clearly a reserved matter and as such the Advocate-General can give advice, as she does on a range of issues as part of being a UK Law Officer. The policy issues were a matter for the House, and the House has decided that policy.