HC Deb 14 March 1984 vol 56 cc388-9
37. Mr Ron Brown

asked the Solicitor-General for v many days on average each month the Lord ends (a) in London and (b) in Scotland.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland (Mr. Peter Fraser)

He spends seven to eight days in London. The rest of his time is spent in Scotland.

Mr. Brown

When the hon. and learned Gentleman next meets the Lord Advocate, whether it be in Edinburgh, London or Timbuctoo, will he make it clear that the recent trial of Councillors McLaughlin and Wood was a disgrace and that the right to democratic protest against the presence of the South African ambassador in the Scottish capital is perfectly legitimate? If not, are we to assume that the legal establishment in Scotland, like the Government, supports and approves of apartheid, just as it approves of the class system?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

It is clear from the hon. Gentleman's question that he does not begin to understand the principles on which the rule of law is based. When prosecutions are taken for breaches of the law in Scotland, this is done with impartiality and is in no way motivated by political considerations.

Mr. Fairbairn

Does my hon. and learned Friend appreciate that the fact that the Law Officers are sometimes in London, sometimes in Edinburgh and sometimes elsewhere results in a huge waste of time and public money now that advocates depute have to seek a Law Officer's personal permission before accepting pleas of guilty to reduce charges in the High Court? Does he agree that such serious and senior people, once appointed, should be allowed to take the decisions themselves?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I accept that advocates depute appointed by my noble and learned Friend the Lord Advocate are distinguished and experienced advocates capable of conducting High Court prosecutions in Scotland. It has, however, been a standing rule for some time now that if they wish to accept a reduced plea in a murder or rape case before the trial begins they must raise the matter with one or other of the Law Officers. I hope, however, that they do not feel in any way circumscribed in the discretion that they have to exercise once the evidence is before the court.