Baroness Clark of Calton: My Lords, I have listened with great attention to the many expert contributions that have been made in this interesting and constructive debate. The contributions came fast, but not furious, and I shall respond in that spirit. I want to associate myself with the tributes paid to the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, for his most useful analysis and comments in his maiden speech. Noble Lords tell me...
Dr Lynda Clark: Since 8 February, 95 devolution issues have been intimated to me. Of the 66 civil cases, one related to failure to transfer a patient from a state hospital and the remainder concerned prison conditions. Of the 29 criminal cases, 19 concerned pre-trial delay.
Dr Lynda Clark: As with all individual cases, each case will be assessed on its merits either by the court—if it goes to the court and is determined by the court—or in discussions between the parties. I am not party to those cases; it is not part of my task to assess the compensation. The claims range from very small amounts to fairly substantial amounts, and the outcome is difficult to predict. I can...
Dr Lynda Clark: Scottish Ministers are obliged to act in accordance with European law. If a challenge were made on the ground that they had not fulfilled that legal obligation, I would assess that as well as my powers under the Scotland Act. These issues can be complex, and there is room for more than one view. If necessary, the court would ultimately determine the matter.
Dr Lynda Clark: It is kind of the hon. Lady to speculate on these matters. I must say that, bearing in mind how much this Government have done to help individuals—particularly those in her constituency—I find it very difficult even to speculate on the idea of a change of Government.
Dr Lynda Clark: I have had no discussions with the Scottish Executive on the transfer of Mr. al-Megrahi. I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), gave on this matter on 9 March.
Dr Lynda Clark: If the Foreign Office is going to the Crown Office, as my hon. Friend suggests, I am sure that it is capable of dealing with it directly. I understand his frustration with this process, but the division concerning these matters arises as a result of devolution. So I repeat what I have told him before: this issue forms no part of my role as Advocate-General.
Dr Lynda Clark: Accurate information is of course extremely important, and it is always very useful for Members of Parliament, particularly those with prisons in their constituencies, to exercise their visiting rights, which I understand that they have as MPs.
Dr Lynda Clark: This action was formally directed against me in accordance with section 1 of the Crown Suits (Scotland) Act 1857. As section 2 of that Act makes clear, responsibility for defending the action lies with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. I am advised that the action is being defended on behalf of the Secretary of State for Defence.
Dr Lynda Clark: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given today by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland.
Dr Lynda Clark: Since 11 January 2005, 55 devolution cases have been intimated to me, all of which have raised human rights issues. All of the 45 civil cases intimated to me concern prison conditions. Of the 10 cases relating to criminal law, eight related to pre-trial delay, one to delay in hearing an appeal and one to the detention and questioning of a 14-year-old boy.
Dr Lynda Clark: I have every respect for Lord Fraser; he is of course entitled to his interpretation. His inquiry predates the Bill to which the hon. Lady refers. Therefore, I do not think that I can further assist her.
Dr Lynda Clark: As the hon. Lady knows, the 110-day rule has been altered by statute to some extent, to change the way in which the dates run. Generally, the person concerned is not in custody in pre-trial delay cases. The 110-day rule relates to people who are in custody. People who are charged with summary offences or who have been released on bail are not covered by the rule. In some cases intimated to me...
Dr Lynda Clark: There is some slight confusion; I was talking about one or two of the types of case raised. I have intervened and appeared in a number of cases. I do not have the figures to hand, but I have appeared personally in the highest courts in at least 10 different cases. I have also intervened through counsel in a number of other cases; I can give the hon. Gentleman the specific numbers. Devolution...
Dr Lynda Clark: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for singing my praise. I am sure that his will be sung in many quarters for having made such an enormous contribution to the work of Parliament. I know that my hon. Friend has been concerned about the division of responsibilities. Perhaps I can assist him by drawing his attention to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, an independent body charged with...
Dr Lynda Clark: indicated dissent.
Dr Lynda Clark: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my hon. Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Constitutional Affairs, on 24 January 2005, Official Report, column 140W.
Dr Lynda Clark: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given today by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. The information for the Office of the Advocate-General is not held separately from that of the Scotland Office.
Dr Lynda Clark: Since 30 November, 67 devolution issues have been intimated to me: 36 devolution issues related to criminal matters, including pre-trial delay, self incrimination under section 172 of the Road Traffic Acts and satellite monitoring of fishing vessels; the remaining 31 devolution issues related to civil matters, almost all of which concerned prison conditions.
Dr Lynda Clark: No.