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Scottish Law Commission

Volume 940: debated on Wednesday 30 November 1977

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asked the Lord Advocate when he next expects to meet the Scottish Law Commission.

I met the Commission on 4th July 1977. My next meeting has not yet been arranged. There is, of course, a constant exchange of views between the Commission and my departments.

Will the Lord Advocate discuss with the Law Commission and his colleagues the apparent need to tighten up the law on charities in Scotland? Is he aware of the widespread concern that exists about the activities and fund-raising techniques of an organisation described as the David Livingstone Missionary Society, which is apparently immune from scrutiny, since the Charities Act does not apply to Scotland? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman look into the general question and this particular case as a matter of urgency?

The hon. Member has been good enough to raise this matter with my Department on previous occasions. As Public Prosecutor in Scotland, I watch the activities of various bodies there with some care. On the general issue, however, it is correct that the Charities Act does not apply to Scotland; nor do we have registration of charities in Scotland. The simple answer is that people have not yet found that to be necessary. The Court of Session exercises general jurisdiction over charities and so far no further steps have been felt necessary, although we have the matter under review.

Would it not be a kindness to the Scottish Law Commission at least to recognise the value of its work by having a debate at some time on its reports, particularly a debate in the Scottish Grand Committee? Better still, is it not time that we had another miscellaneous law reform provision Bill, of the kind that we have not had for a number of years?

I have noted the right hon. Gentleman's two points. The first is not a matter for me. The other Officers of the House have to determine such matters. But I take note of both points.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman satisfied with the volume and quality of advice that he gets on the question of land tenure reform in Scotland? Is he aware that there is considerable disappointment that no proposals have been brought forward to regularise the position of tenants-at-will in the north-east of Scotland and to give them proper protection against the Tory landlords who are trying to exploit them?

That is a matter that has given the Government some concern. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware that a small improvement in the status of tenants-at-will has been included in the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Bill, which is at present before the House.

Is it not highly unsatisfactory that the law on charities should be different north and south of the bor- der, bearing in mind that those who give to charities and benefit from them are covering the whole of the United Kingdom and not only Scotland? Will the Lord Advocate consider introducing legislation to put matters in Scotland on the same basis as in the United Kingdom as a whole?

The short answer to both questions really must be "No", but I am not unsympathetic to the hon. Gentleman's point, although I think he puts it in over-extravagant language. I think, on the one hand, that there may be advantages in retaining the jurisdiction over charities which has been felt to be satisfactory up to the present time. On the other hand, we have to recognise that new activities are taking place, perhaps under the name of charity, which previously did not take place. These have to be watched, with a view possibly to changing our law but not necessarily making it uniform with that in other parts of the United Kingdom. We are endeavouring to ensure that there is adequate protection for the public.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give some consideration to the stated-case procedure and to the difficulties of the Scottish Police Federation when representing its members who have been convicted of criminal charges? Has this matter been brought before the Scottish Law Commission?

No, Sir. These are not matters which, in the normal course, would be brought before the Scottish Law Commission.