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UK parliamentary committee calls for reforms to attorney general position

[JURIST] UK parliamentarians on the Constitutional Affairs Committee [official website] called Thursday for reforms to the role of the Attorney General [official website] for England and Wales, saying conflicts between political and legal aspects of the position make it "not sustainable" [press release]. The MPs cited the conflicts as the reason for the controversial dropping of a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) [official website] inquiry into a 1985 $86 billion defense contract between the UK and Saudi Arabia for aircraft and other military equipment. It was alleged that former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith [Wikipedia profile] pushed for the decision to protect UK-Saudi relations [BBC report].

The committee said there must be greater parliamentary and public oversight of such prosecutorial decisions to restore confidence in the office. It also proposed that purely legal functions be carried out by a "career lawyer, not a political appointee, a politician or Member of Government" while ministerial functions "be carried out by a Minister in the new Ministry of Justice." Last month, the US Department of Justice launched a formal investigation [press release; JURIST report] into UK defense contractor BAE Systems [corporate website] following allegations that BAE established a $120 million slush fund for members of the Saudi Royal family in exchange for defense contracts. The Guardian has more.

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