HC Deb 11 March 1958 vol 584 cc236-7

3.31 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law of Scotland relating to the power of the courts to order payment of interest on damages. Under the present law in Scotland, interest on damages runs automatically at a rate of 5 per cent. from the date of the decree decerning for payment of damages. This decree is distinct from the fixing of damages which, in a jury case, may occur some time before the date of the decree. If asked, the court may back-date the interest, but there has been no case in which it has been backdated to a date earlier than the date on which the amount of damages was fixed. This is because, as the law in Scotland now stands, the general rule is that interest runs only on a "liquid" debt, and damages do not become liquid until they are fixed. The Law Reform Committee for Scotland was asked to consider this position and, in its Third Report, recommended that powers be given to the courts to award interest from the date of citation.

In making this recommendation, the Law Reform Committee had in mind the theoretical consideration that when the court makes an award of damages it decides, in effect, that the defender should have admitted the claim when it was made, and that he should have then have paid the appropriate damages. But it felt that a more important reason for making the change was that it would remove the interest which a defender at present generally has in delaying proceedings. It also pointed out that owing to the congestion in Scottish courts, there may be a considerable delay between bringing an action and the ultimate decision. At present, it is common for this period to be between eighteen months and two years.

My proposed Bill is limited solely to bringing about that change recommended by the Law Reform Committee. Its application is limited to Scotland, where the change is generally desired. I trust, therefore, that the House will grant leave for the Bill to be introduced.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Willis, Mr. William Ross, Mr. Leburn, Mr. Lawson, Mr. Hannan, Commander Donaldson, Mr. Malcolm MacPherson, and Mr. Steele.