HC Deb 07 December 1994 vol 251 cc325-6 4.17 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. This House operates on the basis that debates are answered by a Minister with ministerial, or at least departmental, responsibility. I do not want to make a party point of this, because I know that the situation would be exactly the same under a Labour Government, but the Crown Office has not been able to answer debates in this House for many years.

That becomes a very serious matter when, in the biggest case of murder in the western world, the lead Department, along with the Foreign Office, is the Crown Office. On Tuesday 13 December 1994, on the motion for the Adjournment of the Scottish Grand Committee, under Standing Order No. 94H(6), you have given me leave to raise the subject of the Crown Office in relation to the Lockerbie investigation.

I do not wish to be disparaging about him in any way, but, under the present set-up, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) will be the Minister to respond. To be frank—I am not in any way using pejorative language about him personally—he is a messenger in that matter. The Scottish Office has little, if any, direct responsibility for matters of the Crown Office.

Mr. Robin Cook (Livingston)

None at all.

Mr. Dalyell

As my hon. Friend says: that is precisely the situation. The Crown Office goes to endless lengths to say how separate it is from the Scottish Office, and that is indeed the position.

My point of order is that there is a very grey area, which I will raise under the new dispensation. The usual channels believed that part of the reason for the reforms of the Scottish Office and the Scottish Grand Committee was precisely that the Crown Office could answer directly for itself, and make statements. It can make statements, but surely Departments which can make statements can also answer Adjournment debates.

Has there been any approach to allow the Crown Office to answer the debate? If there were such an approach from the Scottish Office and from the Government, would you cast a benevolent eye on it?

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman raised this matter in the House with me only last week, and I can only refer him to what I said on that occasion. The Standing Orders, which were agreed by this House only recently, do not allow the Lord Advocate to respond to Adjournment debates. That is what the hon. Gentleman is seeking.

As I told the hon. Gentleman last week, he must find a way to amend Standing Orders if he wishes the Lord Advocate to respond to an Adjournment debate.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. In columns 243 and 245 of yesterday's Hansard, it is reported that I voted both for and against the Opposition amendment, while the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) is recorded as being absent from both Lobbies. Could this be put right, or—in view of the fact that the authorities appear not to have been able to record the votes correctly—could we have a re-run? We would then at least be able put the interest rate increases back in the bag.

Madam Speaker

The error has been noted, and an amendment has been made.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Under article 11 of the own resources decision, which we are about to debate with respect to—

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman will realise that that matter will be dealt with in Committee by the Chairman of Ways and Means. We shall now go into Committee, if the House will allow me to proceed. I must inform the House that I have not selected the instruction.

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