§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Lord STRABOLGI
My Lords, I beg to move that the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1971 (Privative Jurisdiction, etc.) Order 1976, a draft of which was laid before the House on the 27th April 1976, be approved. I am seeking the approval of the House to the order which is made under Section 41 of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1971, which I shall hereafter refer to as the 1971 Act. That Act, by virtue of a commencement order made by the Secretary of State in February of this year, comes fully into operation on the 1st September next. The order raises from £250 to £500, firstly, the limit of the privative or exclusive jurisdiction of the sheriff specified in Section 31 of the 1971 Act; secondly, the limit of the summary cause, the new kind of civil process which is to be used for the purposes of all civil proceedings specified in Section 35 of the 1971 Act; and, thirdly, the sums set out in Sections 30 and 31 of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1907 as amended by Sections 39 and 40 of the 1971 Act. Section 30 allows the removal of a cause from the sheriff court to the Court of Session for jury trial in certain cases where the claim exceeds £250 and Section 31 provides for the trial by jury in the sheriff court, in certain circumstances, of actions where the claim exceeds £250.
My Lords, if I may, I will deal with these three points in order. Firstly, the 1294 Grant Committee on the Sheriff Court in its report which was published in 1967, recommended that the financial limit of the sheriff's privative, or exclusive, jurisdiction should be £250 and the Government gave effect to this recommendation in Section 31 of the 1971 Act. Section 41 of that Act enabled the level to be varied by Order in Council. The draft order which is before us now proposes to raise the level to£500 to take account of inflation since then. Secondly, the order increases the level of the new summary clause to which I referred earlier from £250 to £500. Here, again, the main reason for the increase is to take account of inflation since 1971. The effect of the increase will be that many claims which at present must be dealt with by the more formal ordinary cause procedure will in future be able to be dealt with by the simplified summary cause procedure.
Thirdly, the order raises to £500 the sum specified in Sections 30 and 31 of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1907. This is simply consequential on the increase in the privative jurisdiction of the sheriff court and on the introduction of the summary cause.
My Lords it is intended that the order will come into operation on 1st September 1976 to coincide with the introduction of the summary cause. I commend this order to your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ The EARL of MANSFIELD
My Lords, I suppose that I should declare an interest in this matter because I sit as an honorary sheriff; but the fact that I am not paid, and, secondly, that the authorities have not yet seen fit to release me on civil causes perhaps derogates somewhat from that interest. The necessity for power which the Government seek may be summed up, I think, by one word: inflation. One can only hope that there will be an absence of this sort of order in the future. Perhaps one can welcome that part of the order particularly which deals with the simplified summary cause procedure. I think that would be a cause of satisfaction in Scotland and, in any event, on these Benches noble Lords, I have no doubt, will welcome it.
§ Lord STRABOLGI
My Lords, I am grateful for the welcome that the noble Earl has given this order. He hoped that there would not be any other order resulting from inflation. As the noble Earl, I am sure, will be the first to admit, inflation is a world-wide problem. The Act of 1971 which was brought in by the previous Government was followed by two years of their Office; they had the problem and we have had the problem as well. But we believe that with the £6 policy we have halved our rate of inflation in the past year. I am sure that there will be other opportunities to discuss the whole economic situation in the debate on 9th June.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.