HL Deb 25 February 1971 vol 315 cc1175-7

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Legal Aid (Scotland) (Extension of Proceedings) Regulations 1971 be approved. I am sure that these Regulations, which have been made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, will command general support among noble Lords on both sides of this House. Their purpose is to make legal aid available in connection with proceedings before the Lands Tribunal for Scotland, and so to ensure that no one is denied legal representation before the Tribunal because his means are limited.

The Tribunal, which begins its work on March 1, will have important functions to carry out under the Conveyancing and Feudal Reform (Scotland) Act 1970: it will consider applications from proprietors of land for the variation or discharge of obligations which have become unreasonable or burdensome; and it will deal with applications from feudal superiors in relation to the allocation of unallocated feu duties. These are functions arising under the Act which was passed by this House at the end of last Session. Your Lordships may recall, however, that its provisions are firmly based on recommendations of the Halliday Committee that judicial machinery should be provided for the variation and discharge of out-dated and oppressive land conditions and that action should also be taken to relieve the owners of tenement and other property subject to a cumuloor lump feu duty of the burden of collecting that feu duty on behalf of their superior. The Lands Tribunal has been established primarily to tackle these problems. In addition, it will determine disputes over the valuation of land for compensation or tax purposes which have hitherto in Scotland gone to independent arbiters appointed ad hoc for this purpose.

My Lords, legal aid will be available on the same conditions as apply to the provision of legal aid in connection with civil proceedings in the courts: applicants will require to satisfy the appropriate legal aid committee both that they have reasonable grounds for their action and that their financial resources bring them within the scope of the Legal Aid Scheme. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will approve these Regulations. I beg to move.

Moved, That The Legal Aid (Scotland) (Extension of Proceedings) Regulations 1971 be approved.—(Baroness Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie.)


My Lords, the noble Baroness does not yet seem to be reaching the point at which she no longer has anything to bring forward which she has inherited from her predecessors, and it may well be because she was quite certain I should welcome these Regulations that she had no word of apology for the time factor. It was a considerable surprise to me to find Regulations which are to take effect from March 1 tabled at such a very late stage, almost at the last minute, without any word of explanation as the reason why we have not had them before now. We all know the procedure under which Scottish Ministers work in your Lordships' House, and the noble Baroness has been kind enough to follow precedent in giving notice of the weeks in which she expects to be in London and Scottish business is to be taken. This is a Scottish week, and therefore there can be no complaint about Scottish business coming before the House. But, particularly in these days of difficulties, when one does not know before one gets here what the business is going to be, it would have been very helpful if we could have known earlier, and not just on Tuesday, that this was to be the business for to-day—it may have been on Monday that we knew; but certainly it was very late. I hope that the noble Baroness will not be willing to found on our co-operation continuing after she reaches the end of our list.


My Lords, I would just say, if I may, if no other Lord wishes to speak, that I quite appreciate Lord Hughes' point that he would have liked much more notice. If he will look at the Regulations he will see that they were laid on February 11; and, as he will know, the procedure is that Orders are scrutinised in the appropriate Committee. It is true that these Regulations are due to come into operation on March 1. I appreciate that the noble Lord would have liked longer than the fortnight from when they were laid, and we shall hope to have a longer period in future. But I thank him for welcoming the Order as a whole.


My Lords, my point was not about inadequacy of time from when the Regulations were laid, but about the inadequacy of notice of when they were to come before your Lordships' House. That is a different thing, and it was about that that I was complaining.

On Question, Motion agreed to.