asked the Under-Secretary to the Scottish Board of Health if he is aware that a large number of tenants are being brought before the Glasgow Sheriff Court for arrears of rent and that they cannot afford to get the legal assistance necessary to defend them; and will he take such steps as will allow a tenant summoned to be defended by a person other than a solicitor?
I am aware that the number of actions for non-payment of rent is large; as regards the ability of the tenants in question to pay for legal assistance I have no information. Parties may appear in the Small Debt. Court, in which actions relating to sums not exceeding £20 are usually raised, by themselves, by any member of their family, or by any person whom the Sheriff permits.I would also remind the hon. Member that the law already makes provision for legal assistance to poor persons. In these circumstances it seems unnecessary to take further steps in the direction suggested in the last part of the question.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that these persons are mostly summoned for being unable to pay rent owing to unemployment and if they cannot pay rent they cannot pay legal expenses? Is he further aware that the lawyers are so busy on other work that it is almost impossible for them to serve in the Sheriff Court?
There is specific provision made in the Sheriff Court Law of Scotland for the representation of poor persons. If the hon. Member knows of any cases where they cannot get such assistance if he will bring them to my notice I will have the matter looked into.
Owing to the unsatisfactory answer which I have received I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.