HC Deb 26 March 1975 vol 889 cc479-80
37. Mr. Rifkind

asked the Lord Advocate when he next intends to meet the Council of the Sheriffs Association.

The Lord Advocate

I have no proposals for such a meeting at the moment.

Mr. Rifkind

Does the Lord Advocate realise that there is some dissatisfaction in rural areas about the distance which members of the public may have to travel to attend sheriffs' courts? Will he bear in mind the fact that it is a matter not simply of mileage, but of other equally relevant factors, such as bus routes, which must be considered when determining the future location of sheriff's courts?

The Lord Advocate

These matters are fully taken into account by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. David Steel

Will the Lord Advocate, with his intimate knowledge of the Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles constituency, take particular note of the representations made against the proposed closure of the sheriffs' court at Hawick, which will mean inconvenience to the public and also increased costs for police, social work departments and solicitors?

The Lord Advocate

I have taken note of these matters, as has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Robin F. Cook

Will my right hon. and learned Friend take careful note of what is happening in Edinburgh? Has he noticed the decision of the Edinburgh magistrates not to appoint a stipendiary magistrate because they fear that a substantial volume of work will be diverted from the sheriff court? Has he any estimate of the amount of work which would be diverted if such a magistrate were appointed? Does he not agree that the proper functioning of the burgh court—the second largest in Scotland —will be greatly improved by the appointment of a professional maeistrate?

The Lord Advocate

If my hon. Friend desires to have an answer on that matter, he should table a detailed question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. It is a question which I guarantee my right hon. Friend will be able to answer.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

If the Lord Advocate intends to meet the Council of the Sheriffs Association, will he ask whether it is prepared to undertake additional work in dealing with divorces, if that work is transferred to the jurisdiction of the sheriff courts?

The Lord Advocate

Many matters of that kind are discussed at such meetings. Again, priorities must be considered. I would not have thought the point raised by the hon. Gentleman was one of the most important matters to be discussed by the sheriffs at present.