Court Papers (Wrongful Disclosure)

- Wednesday, 24th March 2004

 

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Does the Solicitor-General accept the traditional doctrine of ministerial responsibility, under which Ministers are responsible for the advice that they take and are therefore obliged and have an incentive to probe, question and validate that advice? Or is she joining the long list of Ministers who seem to be enunciating a new doctrine under which, if the advice proves correct and successful, Ministers take responsibility, but if it does not do so, they invoke an official and point the finger at them?

The Solicitor-General: I have never been in any doubt?and I think that the Law Officers are in a particular position on this?that responsibility lies not with the adviser, even where that adviser is the Law Officer, but with the person who is taking the decision. In this case, the person who was taking the decision was me, and I take responsibility for it. I simply described to the House, in the way in which I described it to the local authority and the court, what the process was.

I want to be clear that I take responsibility for the actions that I took. There was nothing improper about the actions that I took. The court has no criticism of me or of the actions that I took, and I do take responsibility for them. I do not want the House to be left with the idea that my explanation of the background to my actions was somehow a denial of responsibility. I accept responsibility, and no harm was done.

One of the things that I would be very concerned about and would regret would be if the excellent work of the legal secretariat to the Law Officers, which has served Law Officers down the decades excellently and

24 Mar 2004 : Column 892

with a high degree of professionalism, somehow was criticised as a result of what has happened. The Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, and I value most highly the work of the legal secretariat of the Law Officers, which is recognised throughout the profession as providing the highest quality legal advice.

 

 

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