HC Deb 06 March 1939 vol 344 cc1873-4

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding£2,850, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1939, for the salaries and expenses of the Lord Advocate's Department, and other law charges, the salaries and expenses of the Courts of Law and Justice and of Pensions Appeals Tribunals in Scotland."— [Captain Wallace.]

10.6 p.m.

Captain Wallace

This Estimate is due to a combination of circumstances, most of which, although they relate to the Vote for law charges, may more properly and fairly be considered as part of the cost of the rearmament programme. They are almost entirely solicitors conveyancing fees for the acquisition by various Government Departments of different sites and buildings in Scotland for various purposes, for instance, the Admiralty, £129, the Air Ministry, £1,185; the War Department, £2,081; and the Office of Works, £2,631; in all a total of £11,000. That sum is reduced by savings under sub-head K, due to changes among the Sheriff Clerks, Deputies and the clerks in the Sheriff Court service, by the ordinary process of men entering at lower salaries in the place of men who have been drawing the maximum.

10.8 p.m.

Mr. A. Henderson

Are we to understand that the solicitors were specially employed for the purpose of carrying through these conveyances or that they were salaried officials of the Lord Advocate's Department? With regard to the expenses of courts of law and tribunals, were the tribunals specially set up for the purpose of dealing with these matters, in which case no doubt special fees would have to be paid? In what way was this extra expense incurred, if it be a fact that the tribunals are permanent bodies presided over by salaried officials? It is all very well to ask the Committee to pass these amounts, but we are entitled to know whether the expenditure was incurred by reason of special fees charged by special solicitors or in what way the additional expense was incurred by the Departments concerned.

10.9 p.m.

The Lord Advocate (Mr. T. M. Cooper)

The answer to the first question is that firms of solicitors in ordinary practice are employed by the various Government Departments on the usual professional terms. Those fees are not paid to persons in the full-time or part-time service of the Government but to ordinary firms of solicitors. Each of the Departments has a firm of solicitors specially assigned to it, but remunerated in the ordinary way. I think a misunderstanding underlays the second question, because no part of the Supplementary Estimate arises from extra charges in connection with courts of law or tribunals. The saving of £2,000 is attributed to charges of the courts of law, and was achieved through junior officials succeeding senior officials at lower rates of salary. The whole of the extra charge put into the Estimate is coupled up with the additional conveyances.

Mr. Henderson

I take it that there are officials deputed to check the various costs of the firms of solicitors.

The Lord Advocate

I could not answer that question in detail, but all the items are set out in that table and are liable to be checked by the ordinary courts of session.