Law officers' opinions

21.27By long-standing convention, observed by successive Governments, the fact of, and substance of advice from, the law officers of the Crown is not disclosed outside government. This convention is referred to in paragraph 2.13 of the Ministerial Code. The purpose of this convention is to enable the Government to obtain frank and full legal advice in confidence.1 Therefore, the opinions of the law officers of the Crown, being confidential, are not usually laid before Parliament, cited in debate or provided in evidence before a select committee,2 and their production has frequently been refused; but if a Minister deems it expedient that such opinions should be made known for the information of the House, the Speaker has ruled that the rules of the House are in no way involved.3

Footnotes

  1. HL Deb (2002–03) 654, c WA279.
  2. HC Deb (1985–86) 92, c 279W. The Attorney General's advice has been placed in the Library when it had been requested by a select committee, ibid (2 April 2009) 490, c 1063.
  3. Parl Deb (1865) 177, cc 354, 355. See eg HC Deb (1981–82) 16, c 433. For an example of a law officer's opinion cited by way of a written answer, see HC Deb (2002–03) 401, cc 515–16W. See para 7.31 for a case (Votes and Proceedings, 13 November 2018) where the House ordered that law officers' advice be provided.