HC Deb 02 December 2003 vol 415 cc358-60
16. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con)

What devolution issues she has considered since 28 October. [140758]

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Dr. Lynda Clark)

Since 28 October 32 devolution issues have been intimated to me, all in the context of criminal matters. Although the majority concerned delay in court proceedings, others related to self-incrimination under the Road Traffic Act 1998, the offence of breach of the peace and the system for setting the punishment part of life sentences.

Miss McIntosh

I wonder whether one of the Road Traffic Act cases has involved the question of Scottish police forces immediately imposing fines on the now illegal use of mobile phones while driving. What answer has the Advocate-General given? Is it not inconsistent and unfair that although there is a two-month period of grace in England, in Scotland the penalty is being applied immediately?

The Advocate-General

I am sure that the hon. Lady recognises that we have two separate jurisdictions. The Lord Advocate is in charge of criminal prosecution in Scotland, and he is perfectly entitled to come to his own decision in relation to these matters.

17. Ann McKechin (Glasgow, Maryhill) (Lab)

What devolution issues she has considered since 28 October.[140759]

The Advocate-General

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer that I gave some moments ago to the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh).

Ann McKechin

I would be grateful if my hon. and learned Friend could confirm what discussions she has had recently with civic society in Scotland and the Scottish legal profession regarding the possible consequences of the civil partnerships Bill that was announced in the Queen's Speech.

The Advocate-General

I have had some general discussions about legal issues, but generally the policy matters are not for me. The legal issues are still to be worked out, and my legal officials will be actively involved in taking forward the Bill. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has been actively involved in policy matters.

18. Mr. Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD)

What devolution issues she has considered since 28 October.[140760]

The Advocate-General

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer that I gave some moments ago to the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh).

Mr. Reid

If the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill currently before the House were to be passed, thus removing Crown immunity from the planning system, and if the Ministry of Defence were then to apply for planning permission to construct a radioactive waste dump in Scotland, and if a Scottish Minister then refused planning permission, are there any circumstances in which a UK Minister could overrule that decision?

The Advocate-General

That is an interesting hypothetical question, and I do not give answers to hypothetical questions.

19. Annabelle Ewing (Perth) (SNP)

What devolution issues have been raised with her since 28 October. [140761]

The Advocate-General

Again, I refer the hon. Lady to the answer that I gave some moments ago to the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh).

Annabelle Ewing

I hope that I might do a little better than my colleagues by getting an answer to my question. The Advocate-General will be aware of the outrage in Scotland over the Home Secretary's latest immoral proposal to punish asylum seekers, by taking their children into care. Will she take the opportunity to confirm that the children's panel system in Scotland has jurisdiction over those matters, not the Home Secretary?

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP)

Say yes.

The Advocate-General

I am afraid that legal questions do not have clear yes or no answers. The hon. Lady will be aware that there is a whole legislative structure under the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 which relates to taking children into care. So far as asylum is concerned, there is no question of any punishment. When the proposals are introduced and debated, the hon. Lady will see that they are designed to protect children. Whether or not matters arise under the Social Work (Scotland) Act is still to be resolved.

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