HC Deb 12 July 1982 vol 27 cc642-3
49. Mr. Edward Lyons

asked the Attorney General what proportion of the parliamentary questions to which he, or the Solicitor-General, have replied in the last six months have related to matters for which the Lord Chancellor is responsible.

The Attorney-General

During the period 1 February to 7 July 1982, 165 questions have been, or will shortly be, answered. Of these, 99 are related to matters for which the Lord Chancellor is responsible.

Mr. Lyons

Does the Attorney-General agree that it is extremely unsatisfactory, not to say bizarre and offensive to the House, that he, uniquely, has to answer to this House for a Department in which he has no responsibility or share in policy formulation? Does he further agree that there should be a Minister in the House from the Lord Chancellor's Department? Alternatively, should not the Attorney-General himself be linked in some way with that Department so that he has responsibility for his answers?

The Attorney-General

It would be impossible for me to be linked with that Department. The House has placed upon me a number of decisions of a quasi-judicial nature which I must take without being influenced by anyone else. This is the first time that I have heard the suggestion that the Lord Chancellor's Department should have a Minister of its own, but I shall consider it.

Mr. Archer

Whatever the future of the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Law Officers' Department, does the Attorney-General agree that there can be no justification for exempting those two Departments, alone among Government Departments, from the scrutiny of a Select Committee of the House? Would it not be perfectly possible to exclude such matters as the appointment of judges, but still subject legal services, law reform, the legal aid system, the Offical Solicitor and the Public Record Office to a perfectly proper Select Committee scrutiny?

The Attorney-General

This is a hardy annual. Speaking for my Department, about 90 per cent. of the decisions I have to take could not be the subject of an investigation by the Select Committee. It might be slightly different so far as my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor is concerned, but the matter is constantly raised and talked about.

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