HC Deb 02 May 1985 vol 78 cc423-4

'The Legal Aid and Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1949 and the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 shall have effect subject to the amendments set out in Schedule [Amendment of enactments relating to solicitors] to this Act.'.—[The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

3.57 pm
Mr. Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 53, 55 and 56.

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

I beg to move, that the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause and the schedule propose amendments to the Legal Aid and Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1949 and the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 which were recommended by the council of the Law Society. The proposals were fully discussed in Committee and we undertook to bring forward on Report a revised schedule incorporating those items that we accepted as suitably adjusted. The terms of the new clause and the schedule have been agreed with the Law Society of Scotland. I commend them to the House.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

I am pleased to say that this is one of a number of occasions upon which I can fairly thank the Solicitor-General, or one of his colleagues, for useful amendments. As the Solicitor-General fairly says, new clause 6 and the fairly formidable schedule are the products of a good deal of consultation and discussion. They were originally tabled by me in Committee. I was then, in a sense, acting as an agent for the Law Society which had approached me and asked that the matter should be raised.

The Minister was good enough to accept that there was good sense in most of the provisions, but he cavilled at one clause which dealt with the slightly more controversial matter of the need to tax solicitors' accounts before court action could be raised for recovery of fees due.

I took the view, and I still do, that on balance that was probably sensible, if it is seen in the context of what will be a lengthy and continuing debate about the fairly traumatic shock of the arrival of advertising and competition in the staid and respectable world of Scottish solicitors. We shall probably want to return to that subject at leisure on another occasion. That matter has gone from the schedule and I understand the reason for that.

A number of useful changes remain which deal with the right to levy a subscription and the right to have a special levy to fund a project, such as the new Scottish law publication with which the Law Society is involved. There are a number of other such matters—the recovery of expenses and the rather sad circumstances in which the Law Society has to take over a solicitor's business because of problems that have arisen.

The provisions bring some flexibility to the framework within which the Law Society operates. These matters underline the difficulties that can arise when one needs primary legislation to effect minor tunings and changes which experience has suggested would be useful. I welcome the fact that the Solicitor-General for Scotland has—as one would expect—honoured the undertaking that he gave in Committee. I welcome the new clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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