By long-standing convention observed by successive Administrations and embodied in the ministerial code, the fact that the Law Officers have or have not advised on a particular issue and the content of any advice are not disclosed outside Government.
I am grateful to the Solicitor-General for that answer, because it gives me the opportunity to highlight what might be appropriate practice for supporting local authorities that get involved in joint ventures on the basis of property speculation, as Croydon is doing. I appreciate that the economics might be a matter for another Department, but would she think it appropriate to give local authorities good guidance on their legal exposure when they get involved with special purpose vehicles and joint ventures with property companies and the private equity business?
The hon. Gentleman was kind enough to inform me of the nature of his concern the other night. His council has not sought Government funding, or any approval or consents, for the special purpose vehicle that is the cause of his concern. The Government do not therefore have any relationship or involvement with the council in that regard. He is right, however, to suggest that if the council sought funding, consent or associated approval in the future, the Government would consider the nature of the venture with great care.
Order. We now come to questions to the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey), representing the House of Commons Commission, and to the Leader of the House. Unfortunately, I note that the hon. Member for North Devon is not here. [Interruption.] Ah, the hon. Gentleman has arrived—and his arrival is most welcome. I call Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.