Points of Order

– in the Scottish Parliament at 3:29 pm on 20th March 2003.

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Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative 3:29 pm, 20th March 2003

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Is not it the case that, as the Lord Advocate is an Executive minister with collective responsibility, he cannot act independently on matters that involve the whole Executive? The constitutional principle that the First Minister suggested cannot possibly be right.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I do not want to comment on that off the cuff, but the First Minister might want to.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

The Lord Advocate acts as the legal adviser to the Scottish Cabinet. It is quite right that that is the arrangement. He is a member of the Executive and is therefore accountable to the Parliament. He is also accountable to the Parliament for his running of the prosecution service in Scotland. When he makes a decision to go into court and to argue for a particular course of action, he has to make that decision himself. He will certainly not be instructed by me on such a decision.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. As you know, I submitted an emergency question this morning, which asked the First Minister to make a statement following the outbreak of war against Iraq. I realise that you are not obliged to give a reason for your refusal to allow the First Minister to answer my question. Bearing in mind that, by its very nature, war is an emergency that the Parliament cannot and should not ignore, will you give us an assurance that you will not rule out automatically any such future emergency request for a statement?

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

The member is right that I never give reasons for why I accept or reject an emergency question. It is going a bit far to ask me to rule on hypothetical emergency questions that I might receive in the future. I will consider each such request on its merits—genuinely.

Photo of Andrew Wilson Andrew Wilson Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Order. My point of order relates to that of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton and the First Minister's response to it. At the close of the Parliament's proceedings today, I ask that guidance be given to the chamber. On reflection, the First Minister will be aware that the guidance that he has given is inaccurate and that what Lord James Douglas-Hamilton said was correct.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I will not rule any further on that matter. I will study the Official Report . If I need to say anything more about the issue, I will do so at 5 o'clock, but I am not promising anything.