HL Deb 22 July 1980 vol 412 cc191-3

2.43 p.m.

The Earl of SELKIRK

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government to what extent recommendations 32 to 38 of the Renton Committee (AngloScottish Legislation) are being implemented.

The LORD ADVOCATE (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)

My Lords, recommendations 32 to 36 of the Renton Committee's Report are implemented wherever it is appropriate to do so. Recommendation 37 has not been implemented. As regards recommendation 38, the Government see advantage in the re-enactment, in suitable cases, of the Scottish provisions in Anglo-Scottish Bills but, at the present, believe that the best way of going about it is by way of the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills. We are, however, keeping recommendation 37 and the alternative procedure referred to in recommendation 38 under review.

The Earl of SELKIRK

My Lords, I did not hear the noble and learned Lord very well. May I ask two supplementary questions? Is early consultation already taking place between draftsmen and others on Bills affecting both parts of the United Kingdom? Secondly, can the noble and learned Lord say whether he is obtaining, both in quantity and in quality, the type of men capable of doing the exacting task of draftsmen?


My Lords, so far as consultation is concerned, early consultation between Scottish and English draftsmen takes place at the present time. I am satisfied with the arrangements for that. I think that it would be impossible for the Lord Advocate to be satisfied with the number of Scottish draftsmen that are available, but, considering the difficulties the department have had in recent years, particularly with the sudden death of the legal secretary, the department is very well staffed.


My Lords, is my noble and learned friend aware that the great advantage of having separate and parallel Bills for Scotland is that, when there are United Kingdom and Great Britain Bills dealing with the law of both countries, the Scottish draftsmen may concentrate their efforts upon basing their Bills on Scottish law? Is he also aware that the demand for this Committee's report throughout the Commonwealth, including Scotland, has been so great that it is now out of print? Can the noble and learned Lord say when printing will be resumed?


My Lords, there are advantages in parallel Bills and disadvantages also, particularly in the shape of the requirements made on parliamentary time. We have tried to balance these various considerations in making decisions in particular cases. I am glad to know that the demand for the Renton Committee Report has been so great. Several reprints have been called for since the original publication. I had gathered that the demand had now slightly fallen off and that recently a further reprint was not considered justified. Copies can be obtained by arrangement with Her Majesty's Stationery Office, but the situation is kept under constant review.


My Lords, this is a very important report. Is there really not some responsibility on the Government to make copies available to Members of Parliament?


My Lords, as I have said, the Government have had the report reprinted several times. The demand for it appeared to be reasonably satisfied, although it happens to be out of print at the moment. If there should be a resurgence of demand the Government will meet it. Individual copies are available by arrangement with Her Majesty's Stationery Office.


My Lords, as in describing certain things and situations the Scottish use different words from the English—for example, they say "outwith" instead of "outside"—will the noble and learned Lord arrange for this document to be printed in both languages?


My Lords, I think it is fair to say that at the moment legislation is printed in the two different languages as far as that may be necessary—as I am sure the noble Lord will know as a result of referring to the Tenants' Rights Etc. (Scotland) Bill, which the House is presently considering.