Select Committee on Environmental Audit Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Legal Secretariat to The Law Officers

  1.  The Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers is a small Department that exists solely to provide support to the two Law Officers, the Attorney General and Solicitor General, in the exercise of their responsibilities. The Law Officers' Departments, of which LSLO is one, are the Crown Prosecution Service, Treasury Solicitor's Department, and the Serious Fraud Office. This memorandum relates only to LSLO, the three other Departments having submitted separate memoranda to the Committee.

  2.  In addition to the two Ministers, there are 32 staff in post, of which 15 are lawyers at SCS or Grade 6 level. The budget for LSLO for 2001-02 is £2.3 million, of which £1.6 million is salary costs.

  3.  The primary duty of the Law Officers is to act as the Government's Chief Legal Advisers. The Law Officers must also give advice, when called upon, to Parliament and the Crown. The Attorney General supervises the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office and holds Ministerial responsibility for the Treasury Solicitor's Department. He has oversight of criminal prosecutions generally, with many of the more serious offences requiring his consent to prosecution. He has powers to stop prosecutions on indictment. The Attorney General has many responsibilities covering a wide field of law. These include issues of contempt, inquests, charity matters, relater actions and referring unduly lenient sentences. He acts as Protector of the Public Interest and will intervene to represent that interest in proceedings before the Courts.

  4.  In exercising their responsibilities, the Law Officers, although part of Government, act independently of it. This ensures their ability to protect the independence of the prosecution process, the public interest, and ensures their ability to give legal advice to Government without fear or favour. The independent nature of that advice is vital to Government.

  5.  This introduction to the work of the Law Officers and of LSLO is to underline and explain the rather different way in which it must approach issues of sustainable development. The Law Officers have no policy responsibilities and LSLO is not a policy Department. It has no legislative programme. Although as Criminal Justice Ministers, the Law Officers are involved in legislation dealing with legal issue and crime and courts in particular, primary responsibility for that legislation lies elsewhere.

  6.  The possibilities for LSLO taking any substantial role in promoting sustainable development are therefore very few. Nevertheless, both the Attorney General and Solicitor General recognise the importance of promoting sustainable development and are active in ensuring LSLO does all it can within the limits imposed on it.

  7.  LSLO has been active in Green Housekeeping issues such as waste paper, green electricity, water and power usage. A Green Minister with responsibility for the other Law Officer Departrments, the Solicitor General has pressed for continuing improvements in these areas.

  8.  In terms of Headline Indicators, H8—Crime, is the one which LSLO may have the greatest impact. Although the CPS is a reactive agency—it deals with cases brought to it by the police—it can improve social conditions by ensuring that cases are dealt with fairly and promptly. The Law Officers are personally involved in programmes to achieve this such as the Youth Justice Pledge.

  9.  The response to the request for specific information set out below should, therefore, be seen in the context of what is set out above.

  Q1.  LSLO has had no direct input to the UK preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

  The Solicitor General is not a member of MISC18 but is a member of ENV(G). Co-ordination within the Law Officers' Departments is led by the Crown Prosecution Service as the biggest of the Departments involved.

  Q2.  LSLO does not lead on any of the UK sustainable development indicators. As explained above, the limited impact it may have is on H8—Crime.

  Q3.  LSLO being a small Department, the Green Minister, the Solicitor General, takes a personal interest in ensuring the Department is aware in all areas of the importance of sustainable development principles.

February 2002

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