In the Media

A-G role under microscope

PUBLISHED July 13, 2007

The government is to review the role of Attorney-General and consider whether the Lord Chancellor should retain the right to veto judicial appointments.

The proposals are part of a wide-ranging public consultation on executive, legislative and judicial powers in the UK launched by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Justice Secretary Jack Straw last week.

Currently the Attorney-General acts as both guardian of the public interest and as minister and legal adviser to the government, something many observers regard as a fundamental conflict of interest.

The government is keen to restore public confidence in the role after criticism of the current post-holder, Lord Goldsmith, over his involvement in the decision to halt the BAE Systems investigation and his advice to the cabinet on the legality of the war in Iraq. He has vigorously defended his actions.

The proposals, published in the Governance of Britain Green Paper, also seek views on whether the Lord Chancellor, and therefore government, should still be able to reject candidates for judicial appointment.

While many would welcome removing government involvement in selection, others fear powers wielded by the Lord Chancellor would merely devolve to parliamentary committees.

Roger Smith, director of law reform and human rights organisation Justice, welcomed the consultation. He said the review of the Attorney-General?s role should ?be comprehensive and extend to whether the office should be abolished and replaced with a different mechanism?.

A Law Society spokeswoman said: ?We welcome the government?s willingness to look again at these issues and we will be responding fully to the consultation.?