HC Deb 07 September 2004 vol 424 cc592-4
16. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con)

What devolution issues she has considered since 29 June. [187623]

17. Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD)

What human rights issues she has considered since 29 June. [187624]

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

What devolution issues she has considered since 29 June. [187625]

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

Since 29 June, 83 devolution issues have been intimated to me, with all but six relating to human rights. Forty-nine devolution issues related to criminal matters, including pre-trial delay, self-incrimination, the use of temporary judges and regulatory fisheries offences. In the civil sphere, 34 issues were intimated, almost all of which concerned personal injury actions in respect of prison conditions.

Miss McIntosh

Having had such a busy summer, can the hon. and learned Lady share with the House her advice on the legality of the situation raised by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) on the variations with regard to subsidies and grants for renewable forms of energy in Scotland, as opposed to England and Wales?

The Advocate-General for Scotland

Nobody has intimated to me—formally—any illegality. If anyone thinks that any illegality connects to my ministerial office by way of a devolution issue, there is a simple procedure to deal with that. However, it seems to me that this is not a devolution issue.

Mr. Carmichael

Has the Advocate-General had the opportunity to consider the provisions in the Civil Partnership Bill relating to survivor pension provision? Is she aware that the survivor in a civil partnership will receive a pension based on a calculation taken from the date of enactment, whereas the survivor in a marriage will receive a pension based on their entire length of service? Does she agree that that is an inequitable situation that will leave the Bill vulnerable to a human rights challenge? Will she consider that point and offer the appropriate advice to her colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry?

The Advocate-General for Scotland

I am aware of the policy intentions that have been publicised, but any advice that I give will not be public.

Mr. Reid

As a signatory to the European charter for regional and minority languages, the Government are obliged to provide a Gaelic language TV channel. Broadcasting is a reserved power, but in 1999 secondary legislation transferred the funding of Gaelic language programmes to Scottish Ministers. There appear to be endless discussions between UK Ministers and Scottish Ministers on the subject, with no progress being made. Will the Advocate-General inform the House where responsibility lies for ensuring that the UK meets its treaty obligations to provide a Gaelic language TV channel?

The Advocate-General for Scotland

The obligations will always technically be on the state, which is, of course, the United Kingdom, but implementation can be tackled in various ways, as has been done through orders. In the case of any challenge, and if the matter were raised formally in court, for example, the European Court of Justice, the state would have to answer it.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab/Co-op)

Will my hon. and learned Friend use her considerable legal skills to look into the especially difficult problem of leading a Scottish-based party from London and consider whether a Sewel motion might help?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think that the Advocate-General needs to answer that.