HC Deb 15 February 1984 vol 54 cc259-61
41. Mr. Canavan

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland how much of the old Royal high school building, Edinburgh, is used as office accommodation by the Lord Advocate's Department.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

Crown office buildings are fully occupied as office accommodation with the exception of the debating chamber, a lobby and a press room.

Mr. Canavan

As a fortnight tomorrow will be the fifth anniversary of the referendum, when the majority of voters voted for a Scottish Assembly, although they were denied their democratic right, why have the Government refused the reasonable application from the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly to hold a meeting in the old royal high school building on that day? Does the hon. and learned Gentleman not feel like an illegal squatter, occupying part of a building that was earmarked for a Scottish Parliament, when he is a member of a Government who were rejected by over 70 per cent. of the people of Scotland and who have no mandate to rule the people of Scotland?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

When I consider the considerable duffing-up that the hon. Gentleman and his friends have received in the correspondence columns of The Scotsman and other newspapers for their ill-digested and ill-considered views on a Scottish Assembly, I am surprised that he has raised the matter. I would be very much more impressed if the matter were to be raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) or some of his other hon. Friends.

Mr. Fairbairn

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that his occupation of an office in the Royal high school is quite reasonable and much more suitable than anything suggested by Labour Members? Will he, from that office, consider the suggestion put forward by the Law Society of England that there should be a system of penalty for solicitors who are in default of their professional duty and that it should be a matter of penalty—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not know whether that has anything to do with the question.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I am aware of the proposal that has been made by the Law Society of England, and I expect to meet the Law Society of Scotland in the near future. The matter may well be raised by the society at that meeting.

Mr. Wilson

The isolationism displayed by some Members of the Labour party in their attitude to a Scottish Parliament is rightly condemned by the Solicitor-General for Scotland. However, will the Solicitor-General say how long the Government intend to defy the wishes of the Scottish people on this question?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

The hon. Gentleman speaks for a party which lost 53 deposits out of 72 at the general election. However much he may challenge my right and that of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Scottish Office to speak for Scotland, we have a considerably greater right to do so than he and the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart).

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that the Labour Government spent more than £1 million of taxpayers' money on renovating the high school building? Is it not therefore appropriate that the Lord Advocate's Department should make full use of a small part of the building?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I believe that we are making good use of the building, but, as I have pointed out, the chamber and lobby remain available at all times for the Scottish Grand Committee if it chooses to sit there, and the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs would also be free to use the lobby for any of its investigations.

Mr. Maclennan

If the Solicitor-General for Scotland does not consider that the votes of 70 per cent. of the Scottish people in favour of parties supporting the Assembly are conclusive proof of Scottish opinion on the matter, what percentage of votes would he regard as conclusive?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I have great difficulty in understanding exactly what the hon. Gentleman's party has to say about the issue. The views of the hon. Gentleman are clear enough, but if one talks to some of his southern colleagues to find out whether there is a unanimity of view, the matter is very different.

Mr. Dewar

I note that a rather more robust political edge is creeping into the Solicitor-General for Scotland's answers. It will soon be rumoured that he and his noble Friend the Lord Advocate are about to join the Conservative party.

Was not the real case for devolution made last night by the ludicrous arrangements enforced on the Rating and Valuation (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, which had to sit until 5 am? If we had a directly elected Scottish Assembly, we could have a more effective legislative process. If the Solicitor-General for Scotland wishes to have personal experience of the force of that argument, he should attend the Committee, of which he is a member.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

If the hon. Gentleman talks about the Committee which he attended last night—[Interruption.]—Clearly the hon. Gentleman has no best friends. If he had any, they would have told him how boring he was.