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Criminal Procedure(Scotland) Bill Lords

Volume 888: debated on Tuesday 11 March 1975

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Order for Second Reading read.

12.14 a.m.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This is a consolidation Bill covering amendments relating to criminal procedure in Scotland contained in no fewer than 61 Acts of Parliament and Acts of Adjournal extending as far back as 1587. The Bill has been before the Joint Select Committee on Consolidation Bills and the Committee has made certain amendments to it. It has approved the inclusion of the Acts of Adjournal to render the consolidation intelligible. I am confident that this Bill, which is long awaited, will prove of great benefit to the courts and the practitioners involved in the criminal process in Scotland.

In Committee amendments will be moved to take account of the fact that references in the Bill to local health authorities are now to be read as references to local authorities following upon the reorganisation of the National Health Service in Scotland. These local authorities will from 16th May 1975 be the new authorities, taking over on local government reorganisation. Likewise, references to regional hospital boards will require to be replaced by references to health boards.

In moving that the Bill be read a Second time, I pay tribute to the work that has been done by the Parliamentary Draftsman and those who assisted him. It was a monumental task, and the consolidation that has been done will, I think, be of great benefit to the public in Scotland. This consolidation Bill amounts virtually to a code of criminal procedure for Scotland.

12.17 a.m.

On behalf of my party I welcome the new magnum opus which has emerged from the Lord Advocate's Department. On reading the debate that took place in another place I noticed that the Bill received a presentation lasting only two minutes. That does not seem sufficient for the amount of work which has obviously been carried out.

It has been observed that these consolidation measures are very often mere scissor and paste jobs. On looking at the Bill 1 would say that it has taken much more effort than that. As a law student I had to struggle through a lot of different references and a great number of Acts. In the courts I have suffered from the same problem. I give a personal welcome to this measure, although I do not know what it will do to the sales of that well-reputed volume, Renton and Brown.

The production of this document will give great encouragement to those involved in the law of Scotland who would like to see it adapted to meet modern circumstances, even though, in this instance, it is purely clarification of work done throughout the centuries. Having started on this task of a major clarification of the law on criminal procedure in Scotland, I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will now set to work and provide parliamentary time for reforming the law of diligence, reforming the law on conveyancing, and dealing with the scandal of the lack of time which has been given to the reform of the Scottish divorce law. I appreciate that time is short for legal reforms of that sort, but I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will press the Scottish Assembly into action as quickly as possible to deal with the badly needed reform of Scottish domestic legislation.

12.18 a.m.

I thank the Lord Advocate for having neatly introduced a Bill of 464 clauses and nine schedules with such clarity and immense speed. I do not come from Scotland, but I am a lawyer and I believe that this consolidation of legislation is long overdue. I am sure that the consolidation will be of great assistance to those who practise in the criminal courts in Scotland. I therefore welcome the Bill.

12.19 a.m.

I cannot share the general welcome which has been given to the Bill. I say that not merely as a member of the Joint Select Committee which helped to put it before the House. As a practising lawyer I can see the great difficulties involved in codification. Codification is one of those solutions to or remedies for the confused state of the law which everyone thinks will produce simple or more easily understandable law within the compass of one book. But it never happens in that way. In practice, what we have here is an unrelated Bill purporting to consolidate existing Scottish law on criminal procedure which within days will be out of date, so much so that within the passage of this Bill it will be necessary to undo the work which the Joint Select Committee did by revising certain phrases and terminologies. Within a few days after that will come into force the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, which will, I imagine, affect Clause 349 and certain other clauses dealing with what happens in connection with previous convictions of defendants.

I refer to these points only because this is a perfect example of something which, on the face of it, appears to be an asset— a useful guide to laymen and lawyers in dealing with problems— but which, in practice, is nonsense, because within a matter of months it will be almost impossible to find anything in the measure which is up to date.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House—[ Mr. Stoddart.]

Committee this day.