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Scottish Law Commission

Volume 932: debated on Wednesday 25 May 1977

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asked the Lord Advocate when he proposes to meet the Chairman of the Scottish Law Commission.

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. and learned Friend met the Chairman of the Scottish Law Commission on 28th April of this year. I understand that he expects to meet the chairman and the other members of the Commission early in July.

I am grateful to the Minister for answering this Question. The Lord Advocate did me the courtesy of advising me that he had to be in Edinburgh today, and I accept the situation. When the next meeting takes place, will the Lord Advocate ask the chairman whether he is satisfied with the way in which the law is at present operating regarding the information that has to be disclosed by companies that are registered outwith the United Kingdom when they take an active part in land transactions within the United Kingdom? Is he aware of the considerable concern in my constituency, where a sandbank off Easter Ross has appreciated in value by no less than 1,200 per cent. in 14 months—the value rising from £50,000 to £600,000—at a time when it seems almost impossible to detemine who controls the companies in question?

I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern but I do not think that this is a matter to be discussed by my right hon. and learned Friend when he meets the Chairman of the Law Commission. It falls within the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. If the hon. Gentleman cares to pursue the matter with me, I shall be happy to answer the question.

Will the Minister ask the Lord Advocate, when he next meets the Chairman of the Law Commission, to discuss the effects of the law of libel as it impinges on distributors of magazines? Although certain safeguards have been introduced into the law, it still seems that distributors may be liable for libels that they could not detect. Will he look into that matter again?

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is a little surprising that the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray) should express concern about what is a perfectly legitimate and integral part of capitalist land speculation? Since the Minister has said that the matter is really one for the Secretary of State rather than the Lord Advocate, will he take the obvious remedy and nationalise the land, thus putting an end to this kind of speculation?

Will the Minister ask the Lord Advocate to put on the agenda of the Law Commission the newly-developing question of the jurisdiction of Scots law on North Sea oil development contracts, bearing in mind that it appears that some companies—even those controlled by the Government, or at least with a Government interest—are opting out of Scots law jurisdiction? Could not that be a matter that the Lord Advocate would wish the Law Commission to look at?

Without prior notice of that question it is very difficult for me to give a direct reply. However, I shall certainly raise the matter with my right hon. and learned Friend.

Will the Minister reconsider his reply to our hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) about the public ownership of land? Would that not be the most effective way of dealing with the problem of Lord Howard de Walden, who was mentioned by our right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and whose favourite slogan at the last election was "It's Scotland's soil"? Is that not precisely the problem—that it is not Scotland's soil?

I do not think that I can change the answer that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes).