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Volume 530: debated on Wednesday 22 June 2011

As ever, I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Has the Advocate-General yet received an update on the progress made by the expert group set up by the Scottish Government, which is examining the role of the United Kingdom Supreme Court?

The Advocate-General wrote to the chair of the Scottish Government expert group, Lord McCluskey, offering a meeting, but has now received a response from the group’s secretariat saying that, owing to their timetable, members of the group have not had time in the first instance to receive submissions or hear evidence. What appears to have happened is that an expert group is set up by the First Minister one week, meets the following week—with no evidence taken in any week—and reports the week after.

That was a most disappointing response. Will the Government start supporting the integrity and independence of Scots law, work constructively with the Scots group chaired by the eminent Lord McCluskey and promise to do nothing to reform the Supreme Court until the group has reported?

I should have hoped that the hon. Gentleman, like his colleague, Jim Sillars, the former deputy leader of the Scottish National party, would have sought to disassociate himself from the appalling comments that the First Minister has made about Lord Hope, which Jim Sillars described as “foolish” and “juvenile”. [Interruption.]

Order. There are far too many private conversations taking place in the Chamber. It is very discourteous to the Member asking the question and to the Minister answering it. I want to hear Sir Menzies Campbell.

What possible confidence can we have in the findings of a group that is unwilling to meet the Advocate-General, who last year established an inquiry for precisely the same purpose as this group has been established?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes an extremely good point. As I said in my initial response, it seems incredible that a group set up to consider this very complicated issue is not going to take evidence or receive submissions. I am pleased that the Advocate-General has in any event made his information available to the group, so that might give us some confidence in the report it produces.