HC Deb 13 May 1981 vol 4 cc765-6
31. Mr. Dewar

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland how many applications have been made by the Crown for the extension of the 110-day rule as a result of the industrial action in the courts.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

Up to Friday 8 May 1981, the Crown has made 28 applications to the High Court for extensions of the 110-days as a result of the industrial action in the Scottish courts.

Mr. Dewar

Is the Solicitor-General satisfied in all conscience with the indications from his ministerial colleague that there was no need for emergency legislation to deal with the crisis in the administration of justice, given the sweeping condemnation which he made of the Labour Administration, whom, he said, should have legislated from day one of the 1979 strike? Is it satisfactory to shelter behind a discretionary power, granted in the recent Justice (Emergency Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1979, to deal with exceptions to the triennium in civil matters, and to ad hoc applications in individual cases of the 110-day and 40-day rule? Will he not accept that without emergency legislation there is no proper protection for individual rights?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

We must consider what people term individual rights with care. It is a serious matter to extend the 110 days where no fault is attributable to the Crown, which the courts can do on the application of the Crown or the defence, if it so wishes, although in this case it is likely to be the Crown. To preserve the statutory protections of summary cases in emergency legislation, which I take it is what the hon. Gentleman means, is not protecting individual rights. It would be protecting the right of the Crown to prosecute in certain summary statutory cases.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

Is that not yet another context in which the use of the phrase "industrial action" is as misleading and meaningless as its objectives are often indefensible and disreputable? In the circumstances is it not far better to describe such action unequivocally as civil or judicial disruption? Does not even that phrase flatter the motives of those who put self-interest before civil justice?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

My hon. Friend's words are apt. In Edinburgh and Glasgow the sheriff clerks have, and should know that they have, a duty to perform their statutory duties if they wish to hold and do justice to such a high office.

Mr. Dewar

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I intimate that I wish to seek an early opportunity to raise the matter on the Adjournment in view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply.

Mr. Fry

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The arrogant management of British Leyland yesterday admitted further failure by announcing yet more closures, yet the Secretary of State for Industry has not seen fit to come to the House to make a statement. How are Back Benchers supposed to answer our constituents' many questions?

Mr. Speaker

I cannot answer that question except to say that Back Benchers can pursue their normal rights.

I have two applications under Standing Order No. 9, which I shall call in the order in which they were received.