HC Deb 02 April 1980 vol 982 cc415-7
39. Mr. Ancram

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland when he plans to meet the Law Society of Scotland.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I have no plans at present to meet the Law Society of Scotland.

Mr. Ancram

When my hon. and learned Friend meets the Law Society of Scotland will he discuss with it whether it thinks that under the present procedure there is enough time for counsel and solicitors to prepare cases on indictment which appear before the Glasgow High Court?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

The Crown Office gives as much notice as possible. Regrettably this is not always very long. I intend to prosecute Mr. Speaker next week in the Glasgow High Court and I shall see the position for myself—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that we will all treat the Solicitor-General for Scotland with greater respect now.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I am obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for calling the accused to order. The timing will be improved if the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill is enacted, as it provides that a trial diet in an indictment should be not less than 29 clear days after service of the indictment, and that should be ample time for preparation.

Mr. Ron Brown

When the Minister next meets the Law Society will he discuss the allegations of Mr. David Anderson about the cover-up by the Tory establishment in Edinburgh regarding his own position as a former Member of Parliament and indeed, as Solicitor-General for Scotland?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

No, I shall not discuss that matter. Any question of an inquiry is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. His predecessor the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Milian) put certain documents in the Library. I suggest that the hon. Member consults them.

Mr. Peter Fraser

When the Solicitor-General meets the Law Society, will he discuss its announcement that a junior counsel appearing alone at the High Court in Glasgow will now get a daily fee of £140, or a fee of £90 for a waiting day during which he just drinks coffee? Will my hon. and learned Friend do what he can to introduce a system of fixed diets for High Court trials in Scotland?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I am extremely sympathetic to my hon. Friend's views. I greatly regret the waste of public money which goes on either waiting days or on late pleas by all parts of the profession. The question is which will save more money—fixed diets or fluid diets? I am anxious to do everything I can to ensure the saving of public money on these matters.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Will the Solicitor-General make definite arrangements to meet the Law Society and ask it to consider Lord Grieve's comments yesterday in the Court of Session, where he made a fairly strong critical attack on firms of lawyers who have represented both clients in a divorce case? He pointed out that although lawyers from the same company handled both clients, separate accounts were rendered. In Lord Grieve's opinion, had a joint account been rendered, it would have been much smaller. As the Law Society is responsible for fees will the Solicitor General take that report from today's edition of The Scotsman and ask the Law Society to consider the matter?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I am obliged to the hon. Member for raising that very important matter. I shall look into the particular circumstances, and raise the matter with the Law Society. I will then write to the hon. Member.

Mr. Lambie

When the hon. and learned Member next meets the Law Society will he remind it that most people in Scotland now think of that society as a mutual admiration and protection society for lawyers? When will he abolish it?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I do not think that that is either a very well-informed or helpful remark. It is important that, wherever any profession falls short of its principles and standards, there should be a society to ensure that high standards are kept.