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Lord Justice General

Volume 978: debated on Wednesday 6 February 1980

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asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland when he intends next to meet the Lord Justice General.

I shall be meeting the Lord Justice General on Tuesday 12 February. He will be in London for his introduction into the House of Lords on the following day, which I am sure everybody will welcome.

When my hon. and learned Friend meets the Lord Justice General in London, will he raise with him the problem of the cost of waiting days in the High Court in Scotland, which is a considerable burden to the legal aid fund?

Will he consider the introduction in the High Court of Scotland of fixed diets so that public funds on this important matter are largely saved?

I share my hon. Friend's concern about the amount of public funds disbursed on waiting days. I understand that counsel receive two-thirds of a day's fee for waiting days. At present, in the High Court when cases are set down there is always a reserve case. It is believed that that saves more money than it costs. I wish to see a great reduction in the expenditure on waiting days.

When the Solicitor-General meets the Lord Justice General, on what clearly will be a very merry occasion, will he explore with him the situation which will arise in Scotland when we have the combination of the powers of detention under the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill and the new measures on picketing under the United Kingdom Employment Bill? Does he realise that the detention of witnesses under the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill will bring grave repercussions on an entire picket line? Will he look at this question seriously?

First, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman listened. The Lord Justice General is being introduced on 13 February, so 12 February will be a sober day. The 13February will be a merry day. I do not know what his propositions are on 14 February.

As regards picket lines and the detention of witnesses, if the hon. Gentleman reads what was said by my noble and learned Friend in the House of Lords on what the hon. Gentleman calls the detention of witnesses, I think that his conscience, which I know is always heavy, will be relieved.

When my hon. and learned Friend next meets the Lord Justice General, will he take the opportunity of discussing with him the wisdom of extending the oath of faithful administration to those engaged in the administration of justice in Scotland who at present are under no obligation to take it?

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for raising that matter. We should understand that all of us owe an oath of fidelity to carry out our service to the community. I think that it would be a very good thing if clerks of courts and others took the same oath as those who serve justice.

Does the Solicitor-General honestly believe that the mere taking of an oath makes an administrator a better administrator?

No. But some of us actually keep our word under oath.