HC Deb 14 March 1963 vol 673 cc1509-10
18. Mr. W. Hamilton

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that a firm, recently established in central West Fife under the terms of the Local Employment Act, was called on by his Department to pay legal fees in excess of the estimate given originally by the Department; and, in view of the need to attract more industry to Scotland, what steps he will take to prevent a recurrence of this.

Mr. Erroll

The hon. Member is misinformed. The company in question was given an estimate of the Board of Trade's legal charges and was told that it would be liable, in addition, for the legal charges arising in Scotland. In the event it was charged in accordance with that statement. The second part of the question therefore does not arise.

Mr. Hamilton

Has the right hon. Gentleman been in communication with the firm about this matter? Clearly, there must have been some misunderstanding. Is he aware that the firm is under the impression that the Board of Trade gave a firm estimate which, in the event, proved to be less than half of the total legal costs eventually incurred and that this is one of the minor irritations which make it all the more difficult for firms to consider moving into much distressed areas in present economic circumstances?

Mr. Erroll

This is one of those hybrid cases where the Board of Trade solicitor does all the work involved in the B.O.T.A.C. agreement, save where there is a loan agreement governed by Scottish law, or where security is taken over heritable property in Scotland. I thought that we clearly explained the situation to the firm, but if, as a result of the hon. Member's Question, the firm would like to get in touch with me again, I should be glad to hear what it has to say.

Mr. Stodart

x: Is it not misleading to give the impression that it is more expensive for the Board of Trade to employ solicitors in Scotland than in England? Is it not the fact that in English matters solicitors employed by the Board of Trade are paid out of the Vote of the Board of Trade and therefore out of taxation? Ought not my right hon. Friend to employ a Scottish solicitor on his staff?

Mr. Erroll

I will certainly look at that. I assure my hon. Friend that we make a charge for the work and that in this case the total legal charges represent only a fractional part of 1 per cent. of the loan made to the company.