HC Deb 10 November 1976 vol 919 cc408-9
44. Mr. Rifkind

asked the Lord Advocate whether he is satisfied with the present procedure for hearing criminal trials at the High Court in Glasgow.

The Lord Advocate

No, but I consider that those concerned are doing the best they can with the available facilities.

Mr. Rifkind

Does the Lord Advocate accept that, while the present system for the hearing of criminal trials in the High Court in Glasgow may be convenient for the Crown Office and for the presiding judge, the procedure is grossly inconvenient for defence counsel, the accused, witnesses, potential jurors, the public and the taxpayer? As the right hon. and learned Gentleman has indicated that he is dissatisfied with the present procedure, what does he intend to do in the short term to rectify the situation?

The Lord Advocate

It would not be correct to agree with the hon. Gentleman that the present arrangements are convenient for the judges or the prosecution, but there are great difficulties here. Personally, I think that there is a great deal to be said for introducing, for an experimental period, a fixed diet system in Glasgow. This would raise considerable difficulties, but the recommendation was made by the Thomson Committee and I hope that it will be possible.

Mr. Dalyell

Has any estimate been made of the cost to the taxpayer of implementing the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pent-lands (Mr. Rifkind)?

The Lord Advocate

No. My hon. Friend raises a relevant point. I remind the hon. Member for Pentlands that an increase in expenditure would undoubtedly be likely.

Mr. Fairbairn

While the Lord Advocate says that the arrangements are not convenient for judges and prosecutors in the High Court of Glasgow, does he not appreciate that the inconvenience of those concerned is of the order that my hon. Friend the Member for Pent-lands mentioned? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman try to accelerate what he has put forward in a genuine attempt at fixed diets in Glasgow in which the consideration of all those who have to appear is equally considered?

The Lord Advocate

I am sympathetic to the point that the hon. and learned Gentleman has made, but this is a matter which ministerially does not rest with me.