Amid the controversy surrounding recent decisions of the Attorney General, the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee has announced that it is holding an inquiry into the constitutional position of the Attorney General.
The Attorney General has been in the headlines more than once over the past few months over matters such as his decision to drop the Serious Fraud Office's investigation into BAE bribery allegations and his role in deciding whether to prosecute in the 'cash for peerages' scandal. This follows perhaps his most controversial decision – his advice to the Government on the legality of the Iraq war.
Each time, questions have been raised over the fact that the Attorney General is the independent legal adviser to the Government, a minister of the Crown responsible for prosecution and a politician taking the Government's whip.
In light of these recent controversies, the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee has decided to inquire into his constitutional position.
The Chairman of the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee, Rt Hon Alan Beith MP commented:
"In light of the recent events where the Attorney General has had to make decisions about highly political subjects involving prosecutions, the constitutional role of the Attorney General as part of the framework of upholding the Rule of Law has taken on an unusual importance."
The inquiry follows on from the Committee's work on the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and will focus on three main areas:
- The constitutional role of the Attorney General – in particular, to consider what constitutional role the Attorney should play in relation to the upholding of the Rule of Law;
- The interrelationship between the Attorney General's role in the upholding of the Role of Law and that of the Lord Chancellor; and
- To examine the Attorney General's role as superintending Minister for legal services provided to the Government and whether such a role conflicts with his duties as a member of the Government.
It is likely that evidence will be taken from the Attorney General and other witnesses later this month, however, no indication of when the Committee will publish its findings has been given.