Examination of Witness (Question Numbers
10 MARCH 2009
Q400 Mr Tyrie: There may be others.
Are you calling up further documents that, therefore, are requiring
you to take an inordinate amount of time over this? Why is it
that, nearly six months later, we still have not had a response?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The
first thing to say is that I reviewed these documents and, as
I indicated in the letter that the committee has before you, I
have invited the DPP to assist me in that regard. What is of absolute
critical importance is the review of those documents is comprehensive
and accurate. It is important to get the right decision, as opposed
to a decision which is precipitous, and I will ensure, and am
trying to ensure, that a decision will be made as quickly as is
possible, but I am sure this committee would not wish to be putting
improper pressure on either me or the DPP to come to a precipitous
and ill-founded conclusion.
Q401 Chairman: Come come, you are
in the position that it is your job, as you have often pointed
out, to resist any pressure you regard as improper.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Exactly.
Q402 Chairman: And I am sure you
can resist any that might come from us.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Yes,
I am just reminding this committee that there is a line which
we all have to follow.
Q403 Chairman: It is in the nature
of things that colleagues might from time to time not realise
that they are putting improper pressure on you in your Cabinet
position, and, therefore, you have to be in the position of saying,
"No, this is where you cannot cross the line."
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I
am telling you, Chairman, that no improper pressure has come on
me from anywhere else.
Q404 Chairman: Else? This committee
asking you simply to explain when your work might be completed
is putting improper pressure on you?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: No,
I am just suggesting that I have given a very full and frank answer
that this matter has been referred to me. I am looking at it,
I am looking at it as speedily as is proper and I will, as I have
made absolutely clear, report to Parliament as soon as it is complete,
and I can assure you that I absolutely understand the need for
expedition. I also absolutely understand the need for accuracy
and the importance, whichever way this goes, of making sure that
decision is the right one, and that is the criteria that I will
use. It will be as speedy as possible.
Q405 Mr Heath: I certainly do not
want to apply any undue pressure in terms of time; the Attorney
General can take as long as she likes provided she is assessing
this requirementthe word that she used earlierand
the criteria, which she has just used, in away we understand.
I am still at a loss to know whether the test that she is applying
to this material is an evidential test and, if so, where the threshold
is, or whether it is a public interest test, and that is a very
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It
is a public interest test in as much. Actually, I need
to be really clear. The first thing to determine is whether there
is any information contained in the documents that I have which
would require investigation. If there is to be an investigation,
of course, the prosecutorial process in relation to it would then
take place later, and at that later stage, if we went through
all that, then there would be a public interest test. So I must
not conflate those two, and it is easy to jump to the end without
going through the process, but the first process is: is there
anything at the moment disclosed in those papers which would require
Q406 Chairman: Thank you very much.
It was helpful to get some clarification on these issues and we
are very grateful to you.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Thank
you very much.