HC Deb 30 April 2002 vol 384 cc798-9
26. Annabelle Ewing (Perth)

In how many court proceedings she is scheduled to appear in her capacity as Advocate-General in the next six months. [51313]

The Advocate-General

I am involved in the consideration of court proceedings on an ongoing basis. For example, I intend to appear personally as counsel, representing the Secretary of State for Defence, in the Macdonald case before the House of Lords. This case concerns questions of European law and human rights arising from the dismissal of a service man from the armed forces. I also intend to appear in the investigation, held under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, into the disappearance of the fishing vessel Trident off the north-east coast of Scotland in 1974. At present, specific dates for these hearings have not been set.

Annabelle Ewing

I thank the Advocate-General for her answer. That appears to bring the tally to a grand total of four court appearances since 6 June last year, with the dates of the two further appearances that she just mentioned still to be set. Does she not accept that there is some concern in Scotland that the number of her court appearances—far from not being routine, as she stated in an earlier reply—are rare to the point of extinction?

The Advocate-General

I do not know whether the hon. Lady has ever appeared in such a court as the House of Lords—the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council—or whether she understands the amount of preparation involved in such cases. Law Officers do not always appear personally. Since my appointment, I have made a point of doing this work in court. My last appearance was in the Appeal Court in Scotland a few weeks ago, when I spent a number of days in court as well as a large number of days preparing the case. Obviously, the timing of these court appearances is not under my control, and they sometimes conflict with parliamentary business. I also have to allow time for all the other advisory work that I do. I think that the hon. Lady is getting good value for money.