HC Deb 02 August 1972 vol 842 cc537-9
7. Mr. Buchanan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the estimated cost of constructing the new sheriff court in Glasgow on a cleared site; what is the estimated cost of construction if the church at present on the proposed site is to be preserved; and what is the proposed date for starting construction.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Estimated costs of alternative ways of siting the new sheriff court house are being prepared by the Glasgow Court House Commissioners. The starting date depends on the resolution of the planning issues and the speed of negotiations for acquisition of the land.

Mr. Buchanan

The hon. Gentleman will be aware from Written Answers given earlier this week that this is probably the busiest sheriff court in the country, dealing with 34,000 cases last year, for example, and that there is a waiting period of three to four months for an accused person to come to trial. Will the Minister make himself fully aware of the urgent need to press ahead with the construction of the new sheriff court as quickly as possible?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern for the need to provide a new sheriff court in Glasgow, though I think it fair to say that any delays which take place in Glasgow are not related only to the question of accommodation. During last year, as the hon. Gentleman knows from figures given to him, a considerable effort was made to try to clear the backlog of cases. I share the hon. Gentleman's concern and, in so far as we can help, we shall do all we can to speed up the process.

Mr. Galbraith

In his plans to rebuild the sheriff court on a new site, will my hon. Friend resist any attempt to destroy the church which is at present on part on the site, since it would be a most valuable feature of the scenery of Glasgow, which needs to have this sort of building preserved?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I note what my hon. Friend says. Since formal application for a listed building consent may be made, it would not be appropriate for me to comment at this stage on the merits of retaining the church or its tower.

Mr. Hannan

I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman said in the latter part of his reply, but will he bear in mind that the court commissioners are now the responsibility of the Scottish Office and that the appointment of sheriffs substitute some years ago in an effort to clear the backlog of cases has not met the need? It is now 10 years since some of us were pressing for more accommodation in this area. Despite the assurance which has been given, will the hon. Gentleman take the matter up with the local authority at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

What the hon. Gentleman says is not entirely correct. Part II of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act, 1971, does not come into effect until 1st April, 1973, and it is not till then that responsibility passes to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Carmichael

This is an important building on an important site in the centre of Glasgow. Will it be possible for the public to make comments on the plans when they are produced? Second, will particular attention be paid to the need in the new court building for decent accommodation for witnesses, since the existing conditions are quite abominable?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

There are issues other than that concerning the church. For example, there are plans to divert a sewer and major questions of land acquisition. However, I note what the hon. Gentleman says. As regards accommodation for witnesses, I could not agree more that it is essential in a modern court house that proper provision be made, and throughout Scotland, where we are able to do so, we are trying to improve it.