HC Deb 04 February 1987 vol 109 cc1054-5 7.10 pm
Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am grateful to the Leader of the House for staying in his place. There is a rumour going around that the Solicitor-General for Scotland is about to issue a statement clarifying what took place in the House yesterday and what was said in another place today. It will be within the memory of the House that the Secretary of State for Scotland, in answer to an intervention that I made, said: as with any Law Officer, in these circumstances the Lord Advocate does not have a dual role—he has a single role as a Law Officer. Secondly, the width of any warrant sought is a matter not for the police or for the Lord Advocate but for the courts. The Solicitor-General for Scotland, when discussing the responsibilities of the Lord Advocate to secure the search warrant, said: He is there to ensure that, first, the warrant is sufficient to meet its purposes and, secondly, to ensure that it does not go beyond what is required."—[Official Report, 3 February 1987; Vol. 109, c. 852–57.] There is a clear incompatibility between those statements. There has been a further statement in answer to a question from Lord Wilson of Langside, himself a former Lord Advocate, in another place. Frankly, it appears that there now is considerable confusion.

The substantial point is that clarification of the confusion should not be made in three different statements by Scottish Office Ministers. Surely the clarification should be made in the House. As the term "Law Officer" has been used in this matter, it impacts upon the responsibilities of the Attorney-General. With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it would be of great convenience if the Leader of the House will at least assure hon. Members that, on a matter for the House of Commons, no clarification will be made outside the House of Commons and that that should be done at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

The right hon. Gentleman has made his point. I am sure that it will be noted. I am sure also that he realises that it is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Bruce Millan (Glasgow, Govan)

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. It was I who, from the Opposition Benches, first raised the issue during the debate yesterday and asked the Secretary of State to make a clarification there and then. Have you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, had any sign from the Leader of the House or from the Secretary of State for Scotland that we will have a clarification? It is unsatisfactory that this matter, which was crucial to yesterday's debate, was not satisfactorily answered by Ministers. In effect, there was a refusal to answer. The answer was perfectly clear by implication. There was a statement today by the Lord Advocate, in another place, although the Solicitor-General for Scotland was here yesterday, together with the Attorney-General, not to mention the Secretary of State for Scotland who wound up the debate. The matter could have been clarified here yesterday during the debate. Surely, in those circumstances, we are entitled to some response from the Leader of the House at least.

The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)

I am not aware that there is an inconsistency, but I shall certainly look at the point that has been raised.