HC Deb 21 December 1972 vol 848 cc455-7W
Mr. Clark Hutchison

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on co-ordination between the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Lord Advocate in the exercise of functions in the field of law.

The Prime Minister

I have approved a reallocation of legal functions in Scotland between the Secretary of State and the Lord Advocate. This will take effect on 1st February 1973.

The effect of this reallocation is, first, to transfer from the Secretary of State to the Lord Advocate the following statutory functions:

  1. (1) Functions relating to the Scottish Law Commission. Certain of these functions which have until now been exercisable by the Secretary of State and the Lord Advocate jointly will now be exercisable by the Lord Advocate alone.
  2. (2) Functions relating to the Council on Tribunals and the Scottish Committee of the Council. Certain of these functions are exercisable jointly with the Lord Chancellor.
  3. (3) Powers relating to rules regulating procedure in connection with statutory inquiries and proceedings before certain tribunals held in Scotland.
  4. (4) The function of laying before Parliament from time to time memoranda proposing corrections and minor improvements in enactments in order to facilitate the consolidation of those enactments.
An Order in Council under the Ministers of the Crown (Transfer of Functions) Act 1946 designed to give effect to these changes has been made and was laid before both Houses of Parliament today.

Second, under the reallocation the Lord Advocate will assume ministerial responsibility for the general oversight of certain branches of the law of Scotland. No formal order is required to give effect to this part of the reallocation, which will be carried out by administrative arrangement. The subjects concerned, all of which are connected with the administration of justice are as follows:

  1. (a) the jurisdiction and procedure of Scottish courts in civil proceedings;
  2. (b) the law relating to the enforcement of the judgments of Scottish courts in civil matters and the recognition and enforcement of judgments of foreign courts, other than orders for the payment of maintenance;
  3. (c) the law of evidence;
  4. (d) the law relating to prescription and the limitation of actions;
  5. (e) the law relating to arbitration;
  6. (f) the law relating to fatal accident inquiries.
The Lord Advocate's responsibility will extend to the consideration of proposals for the reform of the law relating to any of the subjects mentioned above and to the promotion of any necessary legislation affecting them. The existing powers of the Court of Session are not affected by the reallocation.

No alterations, other than those mentioned above, are proposed in the functions of the Lord Advocate. In particular, his overall responsibility for the prosecution of crime in Scotland is unaffected.

The Secretary of State will continue to be responsible for the general oversight of all branches of the law of Scotland other than those allocated to the Lord Advocate or which are already the responsibility of Great Britain Ministers. In particular, the Secretary of State's present responsibilities will remain unchanged so far as they relate to criminal law, family law—including the law of husband and wife, parent and child, adoption and maintenance—the law of succession and the law relating to land tenure; and he will remain responsible for all legislation proposals in the administrative fields in which he has statutory responsibility, for example, health, housing, town and country planning, agriculture and education. The Secretary of State will also retain his responsibilities under the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1971 in relation to the sheriff courts.

The functions falling to the Lord Advocate by virtue of this reallocation will be discharged by him through the Scottish Courts Administration, which already carries out on behalf of the Secretary of State certain of the latter's legal functions, including in particular functions in relation to the courts.