HC Deb 10 May 1960 vol 623 cc172-3
1. Dr. A. Thompson

asked the Lord Advocate what judicial and legal appointments are made by him, or on his recommendation.

The Lord Advocate (Mr. William Grant)

The following appointments are made by the Lord Advocate:

  • Advocates Depute.
  • Legal Secretaries and Parliamentary Draftsmen in the Lord Advocate's Department.
  • Solicitor to the Lord Advocate.
  • Standing Junior Counsel in Scotland to Government Departments.
  • Crown Agent and Crown Office staff.
  • Procurators Fiscal.
  • Procurators Fiscal Depute.
  • Clerks and Assistants to full-time Procurators Fiscal.
  • Members of the Scottish Law Reform Committee.
The following appointments are made on the nomination or recommendation of the Lord Advocate:
  • Solicitors in Scotland to Government Departments which are not served by the Solicitor to the Secretary of State for Scotland.
  • The Principal Clerk of Justiciary.
  • The Accountant of Court.
  • The Auditor of the Court of Session.
  • Clerks of the Peace and Interim Clerks of the Peace.
Lords Ordinary in the Court of Session, Sheriffs and Sheriffs-Substitute are appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of the Secretary of State for Scotland. In these cases it is the practice for the Lord Advocate to submit a name to the Secretary of State for his consideration.

The Lord Advocate also, when asked to do so by the Departments concerned, submits names of persons who have suitable legal qualifications to take public local inquiries and the like and to act as chairmen or members of certain committees, councils and tribunals.

Dr. Thompson

May I first congratulate the Lord Advocate on making constitutional history by being the first Lord Advocate in the history of Parliament to have an independent place at the Dispatch Box and not to stand there as an adjunct of the Secretary of State for Scotland?

Is he aware of the growing concern in Edinburgh, in the law profession and in the universities among law professors, that these legal appointments, many of which he has described, are increasingly dependent on political patronage, a system rather akin to the American appointment system? Can he give us an assurance that, in future, to allay these suspicions, appointments will be made on the basis of legal merit rather than membership of the Tory Party?

The Lord Advocate

I am afraid that the hon. Member's supplementary question is based on a false hypothesis. Of the fifteen judges in the Court of Session, only four held legal office previously and one was appointed by a Government of different political colour. Of the remaining nine, only two ever stood as political candidates and I can recollect three cases in recent years of appointments of sheriff substitutes, made on the recommendations of my predecessor, of gentlemen who were former or at that time Labour candidates.