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Civil Service

3. Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister about proposals to give MSPs greater access to the civil service. [136323]

The Minister of State, Scotland Office (Mr. Brian Wilson): My right hon. Friend has regular discussions with the First Minister on a wide range of matters.

Mr. Swayne: I think it quite important for us to know the answer to this question, rather than any other. Has the Minister discussed with the First Minister that First Minister's proposals to politicise the Scottish civil service?

Mr. Wilson: Not for the first time and doubtless not for the last, the hon. Gentleman is proceeding on the basis of a misapprehension. No such proposal has been made, and my colleague the First Minister is far too experienced to want for one moment to politicise the civil service any more than the civil service would want or allow him to politicise it.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian): Is my hon. Friend aware that, during my rather brief spell as a Minister in the Scottish Executive, I authorised a number of briefings for Tory and nationalist MSPs by the civil service? I am not sure whether anyone was any wiser as a result; we can but hope.

Is my hon. Friend also aware that those of us who believe in the United Kingdom see a strong case for more members of the United Kingdom civil service to be located in places such as East Kilbride? Following my hon. Friend's reply to the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Sir R. Smith), may I urge him to keep trying?

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Mr. Wilson: I like to think of my hon. Friend as having been given remission. It is very nice to have him back with us.

The point about civil service dispersal has been made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The Department for International Development has an excellent record of dispersing jobs to East Kilbride, and I have no doubt that that will continue to happen on a case-by-case basis where appropriate. Every interest must be considered: the interests of East Kilbride must be considered, as must the interests of those involved in dispersal.

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield): May I take up the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne)? Will the Minister please confirm the position relating to the Scottish civil service? The Prime Minister told me in a written answer on 6 November that it was part of the home civil service. Does that mean that responsibility for adherence to the civil service code rests with the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State, rather than with the First Minister? May we have that clarified now?

Mr. Wilson: I thought that the hon. Gentleman was going to tell us that his grandfather owned a sweetie shop in Friockheim. But, as he says, the Scottish Executive civil service is part of the home civil service, and responsibility for it lies with the head of it, the Cabinet Secretary. The Cabinet Secretary has made it clear, in the most unequivocal terms, that there was no intention and no attempt to politicise the service--and nor will there be in the future, on the part of any section of this Government.

I strongly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) that it is right and proper in many cases for briefings to be given not only to supporters of the Government on these or any other Benches, but to Opposition parties, where appropriate. I have certainly pursued that policy, and will continue to do so.

Mr. Grieve: I am grateful to the Minister for that assurance, but may we now have an assurance that the next time the First Minister starts making a fool of himself in the way he did just before taking office, it will be the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister who point out to him that the civil service code is the responsibility of this House, and that ultimately, if decisions in favour of changes are made, they will be made through the Cabinet Secretary, the Prime Minister and, if necessary, the Secretary of State?

Mr. Wilson: My hon. Friend the First Minister took over that position in circumstances that none of us wanted. He is doing an extremely good job in a statesman-like manner.


The Advocate-General was asked--

Devolution Issues

26. Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde): Pursuant to her answer to the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde of 25 July 2000,

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Official Report, column 888, how many cases, in which she has intervened, have been referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. [136346]

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Dr. Lynda Clark): Five of the cases in which I have intervened have been referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

Dr. Godman: Is not there likely to be a build-up in the number of cases referred to the Judicial Committee, largely as a result of the incorporation of the European convention on human rights into Scottish--and United Kingdom--law, and the establishment of a human rights commission for Scotland? Is the Judicial Committee the best means of resolving such cases, or should we reconsider setting up a constitutional court to deal with such matters?

The Advocate-General: That matter and others were fully discussed recently in our long debates on the Scotland Act 1998. I agree that in the foreseeable future there is likely to be an increase in the number of cases. Indeed, in view of the fact that a new jurisdiction is involved, that is inevitable. One reason for referring such cases to the Privy Council is to help to clarify some difficult issues--I hope that that will happen.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Board

27. Mr. Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale): When she last met the chairman of the Scottish Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to discuss the impact of human rights legislation on its work; and if she will make a statement. [136347]

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Dr. Lynda Clark): I have not met the chairman of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. The board was responsible for applications made before 1 April 1996. Applications made on or after 1 April 1996 are determined by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. The board was wound up on 31 March 2000, at which point the remaining board cases were transferred to the authority. I have not met the chief executive of the authority.

Mr. Hood: I am sorry to hear that my hon. and learned Friend has not met the chairman of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. I would like to meet him myself to discuss a problem involving one of my constituents, who was sexually abused for 12 years. The paedophile was convicted in court but did not receive a custodial sentence. My constituent went to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to obtain proper compensation, but she was denied that and given a pittance. The Scottish Criminal Injuries Compensation Board denied my constituent her human rights. Will my hon. and learned Friend pass my concerns to the chairman of the compensation authority, whom I would like to meet to discuss the case?

The Advocate-General: I appreciate my hon. Friend's work on behalf of his constituent. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on an individual case. An appeals structure is, of course, associated with the

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Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, and my hon. Friend will doubtless advise his constituent of that. I am sure that his remarks will be noted by the chairman.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): Is not part of the problem that was raised in the question that the hon. Member for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood) put to the Advocate-General related to the fact that a rigid application of the tariff structure is made in relation to the assessment of compensation for criminal injury? Is it not time to return to the situation that existed before the previous Government changed the system, which allowed those responsible for assessing compensation to do so at large, not according to rigid structures involving tariffs?

The Advocate-General: The right hon. and learned Gentleman--or my friend, as I like to call him--is well aware that policy issues in that context are, of course, a matter for the Home Secretary and Ministers of the Scottish Executive.

Human Rights Act 1998

28. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): How many actions under the Human Rights Act 1998 have been brought before the Scottish courts; and if she will make a statement. [136348]

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Dr. Lynda Clark): Unlike the situation involving devolution issues under the Scotland Act 1998, not all actions under the Human Rights Act 1998 are required to be intimated to me. I am therefore not in a position to give a figure for the number of cases brought in the first six weeks after the Human Rights Act 1998 fully came into force. However, my experience of the Scotland Act suggests that it is likely that people will not be slow to bring human rights issues to the courts.

Miss McIntosh: Can the hon. and learned Lady tell the House whether any actions, such as road traffic cases, have been delayed by the introduction of the measure into Scots law?

The Advocate-General: As the hon. Lady may know, the road traffic case was before the Privy Council last week. Indeed, I appeared personally in that case for a number of days. We are waiting for a decision from the Privy Council. The matter has come to the highest court, through the Scottish court system, relatively quickly.

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