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This briefing paper is no longer being updated. A more recent Library paper is available:

This Standard Note provides information about the role of the Law Officers in England and Wales (the Attorney General and Solicitor General). The Law Officers have varied roles and functions, including: superintending prosecution authorities (such as the CPS); bringing certain specified prosecutions; referring unduly lenient sentences to the Court of Appeal; and, providing legal advice to the Government. This note considers the Law Officers’ duties and functions and some recent controversies which have arisen (particularly relating to the role of the Attorney General in bringing certain prosecutions). The paper also highlights recent Select Committee inquiries into the role of the Attorney General.

In March 2008, the then Labour Government published a White Paper entitled The Governance of Britain: Constitutional Renewal and a Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill (with an Explanatory Note). These papers suggested that the Government intended to change the role of the Attorney. In the event, these reforms were not taken forward in the Bill that became the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. Instead the Attorney General’s Office agreed a new protocol with the prosecuting departments.

A separate note entitled Law Officers’ Advice (SNHA/2942) is also available on the intranet.

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