HC Deb 11 March 1981 vol 1000 cc883-4
35. Mr. Peter Fraser

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland whether any improvement has been identified in the number of pleas of guilty tendered at an early stage in criminal proceedings as a consequence of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

The only provisions of the Act in operation which might lead to an increase in the number of guilty pleas tendered at an early stage are those relating to summary procedure and embodied in section 15 of the Act. It is too early to say yet what proportion of intermediate diets are fixed in relation to trial diets and how many of these have resulted in pleas of guilty, as the provision has been in operation for only five weeks and applies only to prosecutions instituted since 1 February.

Mr. Fraser

Will my hon. and learned Friend give as much encouragement as he can to the use of the new procedure in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act? I know that he is aware that there is some reservation in Scotland about the cost to the legal aid scheme, but it would do much to reduce the cost to the public purse if that line of approach were more readily adopted in Scotland.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. That line of approach will be helpful, and I am pursuing other lines of approach to ensure that, in both summary and solemn procedure, pleas of guilty are timeously given, so that public funds, public time and witnesses' time are not wasted unnecessarily.

Mr. John Home-Robertson

Did the Solicitor-General for Scotland or any of his hon. Friends have a dram in the car park at Murrayfield before the recent international, and if they had been charged with so doing, would they have pleaded guilty?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must not advise the Solicitor-General for Scotland to say nothing, but—

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I can only say that I do not drink whisky in the middle of the day.