asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland how frequently he meets procurators fiscal in Scotland.
I have visited five procurators fiscal at their offices since I was appointed to my present position. I hope to visit a number of others during this summer.
When my hon. and learned Friend meets procurators fiscal, will he draw their attention to the considerable concern felt by many Scottish fishermen about the case in Stornoway last year when two German trawler skippers were fined for illegally fishing for herring and were able to purchase back their catch at half the real value? Will he ask procurators fiscal to draw to the attention of the courts the practical difficulties over some sentences that are imposed?
I am aware of the concern that was caused last year and which was stressed by hon. Members who represent fishing constituencies in Scotland. The Lord Advocate has issued an instruction to procurators fiscal inviting them to draw to the attention of courts the powers that sheriffs have where events such as those outlined by my hon. Friend occur. Not only can a fine be imposed, but if the catch has to be sold at a price below its true market value an additional fine can be imposed. I hope that that step will mean that foreign fishermen who have been fishing illegally in our waters will secure no pecuniary benefit.
When the Solicitor-General for Scotland next meets the procurator fiscal in Haddington, will he draw his attention to the utter contempt with which the Secretary of State for Scotland has treated the recommendations of a public inquiry into the conduct of the East Lothian district council? Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the Secretary of State has issued a default order in direct contradiction to the recommendations of that public inquiry? What has happened to the Tories' commitment to respect for legal decisions?
Whatever the hon. Gentleman may think about that decision by my right hon. Friend, I am sure that even he understands that it is not a matter for the procurator fiscal.
It may not be a matter directly for the procurator fiscal, but will the Solicitor-General for Scotland accept that it is difficult for him and others to make speeches about respect for the rule of law and the due processes of law when the Secretary of State treats those matters with such comtempt, as was instanced by the arbitrary way in which he set aside the considered judgment of his own reporter after an inquiry under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973?Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it is wrong that East Lothian district council should have been ordered to comply with a number of difficult matters within six weeks, when the Secretary of State sat on the results of the inquiry for 10 weeks? Is it not adding insult to injury that the local authority should be landed with all the expenses of the inquiry?
We have gone a long way from meeting the procurator fiscal at Haddington. No matter involving prosecution arises from that issue and, therefore, it is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.