HC Deb 30 July 1975 vol 896 cc1810-2
40. Mr. Russell Johnston

asked the Lord Advocate what steps he is taking to ensure that the European Commission in formulating EEC legislation is adequately informed of its impact on Scottish law.

The Lord Advocate

Earlier this year I took the initiative in having a discussion with the Director General of the Legal Service of the European Commission, in which I drew attention to the separate nature of the Scottish legal system and to the necessity of the Commission's taking Scots law into consideration in formulating proposals for EEC legislation, and I propose to take further steps in this regard shortly. I also make every effort to ensure that Scottish legal advice is available to the Commission with respect to particular proposals for legislation. I should add that so far I have found the Commission well informed on Scots law and extremely anxious to take it into account in framing any proposals.

Mr. Johnston

I am grateful for that reply. Does that mean that the Lord Advocate agrees or does not agree with the highly critical comments recently made by Lord Hunter, in which he basically alleged that the Government—not just the present Government but all Governments since we entered the Community—have, in their relationships with the Commission, ignored the differences between Scottish and English law? Does the Lord Advocate agree? He knows that the statement has been made. Is he taking steps to ensure that Scottish lawyers are employed within the directorates of the Commission? If so, when does he expect to have some results from them?

The Lord Advocate

As to the first matter, I certainly agree with Lord Hunter in so far as he was stressing the need for Scottish law to be taken fully into account in Brussels. I do not go the whole way with Lord Hunter, because I think that he does not fully appreciate the extent to which Scottish law is being taken into account. I am not satisfied with the position, but I do not wholly agree with him on the matter.

On the second point, I say with some regret that the Director of the Legal Services Commission, whom I met in January this year when I was in Brussels, has since died. Accordingly, it has not been possible for me to follow up the exchanges I had then. It is my intention to take that up as a matter of urgency.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the "further steps" to which the Lord Advocate referred in his first answer include submissions to the Tindemans inquiry?

The Lord Advocate

I should require notice of that question.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

Is the Lord Advocate aware that on the legal committee of the EEC there is no Scottish qualified lawyer—though there could have been, as I myself applied but was turned down—and that Lord Hunter appears to regret that fact? Does the Lord Advocate not realise that information must go two ways? We very much appreciate his answer about the information given to the EEC, but is not the House very much concerned about the degree of information coming to the Lord Advocate? As he must be aware, in this House there is not the same scrutiny available for the vast outpourings of EEC legislation as there is for United Kingdom legislation. As that is admitted is it not time for the Lord Advocate to set up some sort of special office under his Department for the specific purpose of scrutinising all legislation from the EEC as it affects Scottish law?

The Lord Advocate

The hon. Lady has previously put questions to me about information coming to the Lord Advocate. I hope that these answers satisfy her. I have noted her concern—a concern which I share—that there should be two-way communications in this field.

Mr. Rifkind

Will the Lord Advocate confirm that the last Government's appointment of a Scottish judge as the sole British representative on the European Court of Justice ensures that Scottish legal principles are taken fully into account whenever legal matters are being determined by the court?

The Lord Advocate

I am happy to confirm that.