HC Deb 30 July 1975 vol 896 cc1787-9
1. Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement on his last meeting with representatives of the Scottish Law Commission in Edinburgh.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Harry Ewing)

Relations with the Scottish Law Commission are handled by my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate, who will be replying to the similar Question addressed to him on the Order Paper today.

Lord James Douglas Hamilton

In view of the fact that the Scottish Law Commission, the Law Society of Scotland and the Church of Scotland favour divorce law reform, will the Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland recommend to the Government that legislation be included in the Government's future plans on this subject, especially in view of the fact that the Government have not announced any plan for introducing any Scottish measures next Session?

Mr. Ewing

It is far too early to announce plans for the inclusion of any kind of mesaures, Scottish or otherwise, in next Session's programme. It is normally a matter for the Queen's Speech, which will come later in the year. The Government recognise the views expressed by the various bodies mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. My right hon. Friend has consistently said that the Government are prepared to give drafting assistance to any private Member who brings in this type of legislation. Beyond that I cannot add to what my right hon. Friend said in answer to a Written Question put to him last week by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton).

Mr. Robin F. Cook

Is my hon. Friend aware that those of us who have followed the matter closely were disturbed by the Written Answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton), especially in respect of the reference to the Government's legislative programme for next year already being heavily committed. Will my hon. Friend assure the House that this is in no way a retreat from the assurance he has given me, in a letter, that if no sympathetic Member obtains a high place in the ballot the Government will give careful consideration to making time available for this matter?

Mr. Ewing

This matter, like all other legislative matters, is under almost constant consideration. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) may laugh, but when the Conservatives were in office they did not have a very good record on this aspect of policy. It ill-becomes the hon. Gentleman to treat this matter with frivolity. The House will be well advised to await the outcome of the draw for the Private Members' Ballot, when that takes place.

Mr. Donald Stewart

I should like to raise a point on forthcoming legislation. In the crofting counties there was great interest in the revised Bill for crofting reform, which was regarded as an improvement on the previous Bill. Can the Minister give any guarantee that it will be brought forward in the next Session?

Mr. Ewing

The guarantee that I can give to the hon. Gentleman is that my hon. Friend who is responsible for crofting legislation has this matter under very active consideration.

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