HC Deb 09 July 1975 vol 895 cc527-9
34. Mr. Gordon Wilson

asked the Lord Advocate if he will draw up a comprehensive programme for law reform for presentation to the Scottish Assembly.

The Lord Advocate (Mr. Ronald King Murray)

There would seem little point in drawing up a detailed programme of work until the precise extent of the Scottish Assembly's responsibility is determined and its constitution agreed. The Government, however, remain alert to any opportunity that offers for the introduction of law reform measures, whether by this or any other means.

Mr. Wilson

Does the Lord Advocate accept that there will be some disappointment over that answer because there has been a clamant need for parlia- mentary time to debate Scots law reform over the past few years? Is he aware that there is a good deal of discontent in the country and in the legal profession because of these delays? Will he further accept that failure to find time has resulted in an inability to get the Divorce Law Reform (Scotland) Bill through the House? Does he agree that a Scottish Assembly will provide the opportunity to deal with law reform in a more general way and also give us time to deal with the much-needed reform of the registration of title system?

The Lord Advocate

There can be little doubt that a reasonable devolution arrangement should give greater time for Scottish law reform. This would be generally welcomed in Scotland. I would have thought that the people of Scotland understand very well that if we are to have a proper and workable system of devolution which will be stable and lasting and of benefit to them, we do not want to go chasing after detailed programmes in advance, seeking to do for the Assembly what it ought to do for itself.

Mr. Gourlay

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that any suggestion for reforming Scots law coming from the Scottish National Party is a gross impertinence since it was the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) who first prevented the Divorce Law Reform (Scotland) Bill from making progress in this House? Will the Lord Advocate facilitate the passage of a similar Bill which is likely to arrive in this House from another place this week?

The Lord Advocate

My hon. Friend is right to say that obstruction by individual Members has prevented further progress in this area.

Mr. David Steel

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm the principle that law reform will become a matter for the Scottish Asesmbly?

The Lord Advocate

I cannot confirm any such principle at the moment. Obviously, at present all aspects of future legislation with which the Scottish Assembly may deal are under consideration. The Government hope to publish a White Paper in the autumn setting out their proposals. The hon. Member can take it that this matter has been of concern to me and other members of the Government and that its importance will not be overlooked. There is a certain sense in which it is obvious that the setting up of a Scottish Assembly will give greater time for Scottish law reform proceedings.

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