HC Deb 15 July 1981 vol 8 cc1171-2
37. Mr. Gordon Wilson

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland what effect the Civil Service dispute has had on prosecutions in Scotland; and what criteria will determine the introduction of emergency legislation.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland (Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn)

Strike action is confined to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Since its beginning, 42 High Court cases have been dealt with in Edinburgh and Glasgow, including 25 which had previously been delayed. In Glasgow, 189 sheriff and jury trials due to have been called or gone to trial have not been dealt with; some 204 cases are awaiting sheriff and jury dates; and approximately 6,000 summary cases have been delayed. In Edinburgh, 125 sheriff and jury trials have not been dealt with; some 68 cases are awaiting sheriff and jury dates; but the sheriff court is dealing with one-third to one-half of its summary criminal work load.

The second part of the question should be directed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Wilson

Does the Solicitor-General accept that he has read out a frightening catalogue? Does he agree that in the two biggest cities in Scotland there is likely to be a breakdown of law and order? In view of the effects that that would have in those cities, will he make representations to his right hon. Friend to take some action either to arrange for the settlement of the Civil Service dispute or to introduce emergency legislation? Does he also recognise that many people are now beginning to feel that, had this kind of juridical dislocation taken place at the Old Bailey, action would have been taken by now?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I am not responsible for the Old Bailey. The situation does not result in a breakdown of law and order in Scotland. The result is that some summary cases are dropped rather than prosecuted.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the problem is one of individuals not facing their responsibilities and that the Government should perhaps be looking at ways and means of ensuring in future that they are not able to strike?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

As I have said before, there are moral duties upon those involved in running the courts to do their duty and ensure that justice does not suffer.

Mr. Millan

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that there is also a moral duty on the Government to introduce the necessary emergency legislation? How can they justify their continued refusal to do that when, among other things, a large number of cases are not being proceeded with at all—and this from the party of law and order—and people who otherwise should be charged with serious offences, such as carrying offensive weapons, dangerous or drunken driving, will escape scot-free? Why do the Government not introduce emergency legislation?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

References to the party of law and order come ill from the party of the trade unions responsible for the present dispute. Those not being prosecuted are very few. Emergency legislation would have the same effect. It would merely postpone the results.