HC Deb 19 April 1978 vol 948 cc442-3
43. Mrs. Bain

asked the Lord Advocate if he will meet the Lord President of the Court of Session.

The Lord Advocate

I have informal meetings with the Lord President of the Court of Session from time to time as the occasion requires.

Mrs. Bain

Will the Lord Advocate therefore take an early opportunity to discuss the difficulties experienced by solicitors who are attempting to have legal aid awarded to clients, particularly women in the context of aliment payments where husbands have moved south of the border? Does he appreciate the hardship that is caused in these circumstances, and does he envisage any legal change in the near future?

The Lord Advocate

I appreciate that there is a genuine problem here, but there is little that I can add to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland on 15th February 1978 in reply to a similar question by the hon. Member.

The Administration of Justice Act 1977 provides that Court of Session decrees—as distinct from the sheriff court—registered in the High Court of England and Wales may be re-registered in magistrates' courts and enforced there. This provision will be brought into operation by a commencement order as soon as the necessary rules of court have been made.

Mr. Fairbairn

Reluctant as I am, on any general question, to raise a specific matter which is not on the Order Paper, I wonder whether the Lord Advocate could consider the difficulties which clients have in tendering pleas in summary cases, when they have to tender a plea not just of guilty or not guilty but "Guilty under deletion of" or in reply to the question "Guilty to what?", and thus give a plea which is specific—which only a solicitor can do—now that the Act of Adjournal forbids the solicitor from pleading on behalf of his client.

The Lord Advocate

The hon. and learned Gentleman has raised a genuine problem, but it should not be exaggerated. A little common sense on all sides will probably yield a solution to this problem.

Mr. Rifkind

When the Lord Advocate meets the Lord President of the Court of Session, will he discuss with him the need to improve the system of appeals against summary conviction, as proposed by the committee under Lord Thomson? When do the Government intend to implement these recommendations?

The Lord Advocate

I cannot answer the last question and, eo ipso I cannot answer the first.