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Law Society

Volume 886: debated on Wednesday 12 February 1975

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asked the Lord Advocate when he next plans to meet the Law Society of Scotland.

As I have already said in answer to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) on 31st July and 20th November 1974, I have an arrangement whereby I meet the President of the Law Society every month and, in addition, I meet him on other occasions when he asks for a special meeting.

When the Lord Advocate meets the President of the Law Society, will he welcome the society's stated view that it would favour reform of divorce law in Scotland? Will he tell the President of the Law Society why, eight years after the Scottish Law Commission recommended reform, we have still not carried out this essential measure.

At present there is certainly a degree of pressure in Scotland about law reform. However, successive Governments have taken the view that because of the controversial social, moral and religious issues involved, divorce law is best left to private Members' legislation. Indeed, my hon. Friend has a Private Member's Bill on the subject, which I believe is to be debated on Friday. No doubt he will then press the points which he has made on this occasion.

How can the Lord Advocate justify that attitude? The divorce law is about the status of the citizen, and if there is one matter which should be the subject of Government legislation rather than private Members' legislation, it is surely that. Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognise that the basis of the present law in England was contained in the minority report of the Royal Commission by Lord Walker in 1948?

That is a legitimate point of view. It is one which has to be set against the controversial religious, social and moral issues. A balance has to be struck. Like their predecessors, this Government consider that the proper balance to strike is to leave a matter of this kind to private Members' legislation.