§ Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
Perhaps, Sir, you will allow mo now to ask you the question on a point of Order which I raised during Question Time with reference to question No. 36, and which certainly contains the suggestion that the Minister should state if he had asked the opinion of Law Officers of the Crown, and what that opinion was. It has been held again and again that Ministers of the Crown and they alone are responsible for their action and even for the legality of it. It has been held that the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown is absolutely confidential. We cannot interrogate Ministers of the Crown about them. It has been held still further that, although the salaries of the Law Officers of the Crown are fixed by this House, we cannot impugn their opinions given to Ministers of the Crown on any point whatever. I would prefer it if their opinions were published, as they are regularly in America, if we were able to interrogate them upon them, and if they were allowed to accept responsibility for their opinions; but I understand the rule is that the Law Officers of 1914 the Crown cannot be interrogated as to their opinions, and that Ministers of the Crown cannot in the least degree shift their responsibility by accepting the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown on any matter whatever.
§ Mr. CASSEL
On the point of Order. With reference to the question I put on the Paper, may I call attention to the fact that the question does not in the least ask what was the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown. If a Member thinks a Government Department is acting unreasonably in either resisting or instigating litigation and is wasting a great deal of public money, and if he desires to exercise his right of controlling finance, has he not a right to ask the Minister of the Crown whether before he pursued a certain course he obtained any opinion whatever that he had a reasonable chance of success?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not think there is any objection to the question as it appears on the Paper. Of course, the rule is as stated by the hon. Member for South Donegal (Mr. Swift MacNeill). The Law Officers of the Crown cannot be called upon to state what was in their opinion; neither can a Minister be called upon to state what was in the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown. There is no objection, however, to asking a Minister whether on a particular occasion he did take the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown, and that is frequently done.