HC Deb 15 May 1968 vol 764 cc1223-4
52. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has for introducing legislation to amend the law of Scotland relating to young persons with particular reference to the devolution and ownership of property, to contracts and to franchise.

Mr. Buchan

As the reply is rather long, I shall, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Hughes

In these days of widespread education and early maturity, does not the Under-Secretary agree that the splendid young people of today should have all the rights of citizenship?

Mr. Buchan

Yes, but it depends upon how far down the scale my hon. and learned Friend brings the word "young".

Mrs. Ewing

Would the Under-Secretary consider that 18 would be a good age for all the purposes of status, franchise, contracts and property, and would have the advantage of simplifying the position so that all young people would know exactly where they stood?

Mr. Buchan

The hon. Lady was reiterating much of the content of the Latey Report and will be aware of the discussion and the debate which has taken place on this subject in the House.

Mr. Maclennan

If my hon. Friend accepts the suggestion of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing), does he agree that he would be making the position of a number of young people in Scotland under 18 considerably less advantageous than it is at present?

Mr. Buchan

Yes, Sir. There are distinct advantages as between Scotland and England in this respect. In some ways many of our young people enjoy privileges which are denied to the same age group in England and Wales as well as the protection afforded to the young.

Mr. Doughty

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a number, but not by any means all, of students aged 18 and just over have shown such irresponsibility recently that the facilities should not be extended to people of that age?

Mr. Buchan

I am also aware that a very large number of young people, including students, have shown great responsibility.

Following is the reply: In his statement on 10th April, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General made it clear that in many respects minors in Scotland are already free from the restrictions which apply to young persons under English law. In these circumstances, the main purpose of any amendment of the law of Scotland relating to minors would be to avoid the anomaly which would arise if young people in Scotland remained technically minors until 21 while their contemporaries in England and Wales were given the status of majority at 18. My right hon. Friend has not yet come to a decision on whether this justifies early legislation and he would welcome any expression of view on this matter. As regards the franchise, any legislation which may follow the recent report of Mr. Speaker's Conference on Electoral Law will be drafted on a United Kingdom basis, but beyond that I cannot add to my right hon. and learned Friend's earlier statement that the Government are still considering the matter.—[Vol. 762 c. 1401–3.]