§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.554
§ LORD THANKERTON
My Lords, in 1933 we in Scotland for the first time had provision made by Act of Parliament for the establishment of a General or Central Council for solicitors. That had been known in England for a very long time, and in Ireland for a considerable number of years. We also had established under the same Act a Discipline Committee for the solicitors, controlled, of course, as in England by the Court. It also provided that the General Council was to look after the necessary examinations and admissions of people to become solicitors and to keep a roll of solicitors. I suppose it was because we are a cautious country that we did not at that time adopt all the provisions of powers given by Statute to the Law Society in England. We thought it was wise to get the General Council fully established before we got some of the further powers. The purpose of this amending Bill is to confer on the General Council powers which already exist in the case of England in Statutes passed to that effect. After that premise I think I can deal fairly briefly with the provisions of this Bill.
The first ten clauses (in Part I) transfer from the general care of the Court to the General Council the issuing of certificates enabling solicitors to practice. That has long rested, I understand, with the Law Society in this country. No change is made in the necessity for getting a practising certificate. The Bill merely provides that the issuing of the certificates and the keeping of the roll of practising solicitors shall he under the General Council. Any case of refusal to give a practising certificate is always subject to appeal to the Lord President of the Court of Session and he controls the whole matter. Otherwise the clauses are almost an identical reproduction of what is provided by the Solicitors Act of 1932 in this country. I pass now, if I may, to Part II which deals with rules for professional conduct. It has been thought advisable in Scotland, as already is the case in England, to give authority to the General Council to make rules as to the opening and keeping by solicitors of accounts at banks for clients' money—a not unimportant matter—and as to the keeping by solicitors of books and accounts with regard to monies received, held or paid by them on account of clients and any general matters which are 555 necessary with regard to professional practice. These Clauses, 11 to 14, are almost identical with—in fact I think they are an identical reproduction of—the provisions in the Solicitors Act for England of 1933. I think there can be no question that they are very essential for the profession as a whole and will be welcomed.
Part III contains what are described as general provisions. There again we have added to the powers of the General Council powers which already rest in the Law Society of England, under the Act of 1936, to make sure that apprenticeship is a real apprenticeship. We have had cases where a solicitor to whom a clerk is articled or apprenticed has left the country or disappeared, and there have been great difficulties in the discharge of the indenture of the apprentice and in getting him carried on, so to speak, by another solicitor. This Part of the Bill gives power of general control to the General Council to see that an apprentice shall not suffer from any such untoward occurrence. That covers Clauses 15, 16 and 17. Clause 18 is a new power to enable the Discipline Committee, if they are of opinion that a complaint before them is frivolous or vexatious, to order the payment by any party of expenses. That again seems a very proper power. It is subject to the control of the Court which may or may not grant the necessary warrant for execution with regard to these expenses. Clause 19 is a general one giving the General Council power to apply any monies they have to the expenses of the Discipline Committee. Clause 20 gives a general power to take into consideration and make recommendations with regard to any matters of importance to solicitors in Scotland.
The remaining provisions, with one exception, are really purely drafting provisions consequential on the preceding clauses of the Bill. The exception is Clause 23, which includes, by way of amendment of the principal Act, among the parties who are entitled to make complaints or send representations of misconduct, the Lord Advocate. I think that was merely an accidental omission from the previous Act. It is quite clear that he is a party who ought to be expressly included. I think that what I have said covers everything in the Bill 556 and I beg to move that it be read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Thankerton.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD MAUGHAM)
My Lords, the Government have given consideration to this Bill introduced by the noble and learned Lord. As he has pointed out it makes a number of alterations in relation to the Scottish law as affecting solicitors. Perhaps I may say that I have had the advantage of reading the Bill, and as far as I am concerned, if it were left to me, I should be perfectly willing to give it a blessing. What I am authorised to say is that so far as the Government are concerned they think that the Bill is one which merits full consideration and that, therefore, they have no objection to its receiving a Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.