Court of Session (Appeals)

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd July 1964.

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Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Govan 12:00 am, 22nd July 1964

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland on how many occasions during the past 25 years litigants have lost their cases in the Court of Session and later have appealed successfully to the House of Lords; and if he will introduce legislation to apply to criminal cases the same procedure as applies to civil cases in this regard, to permit a majority of Scottish Law Lords sitting in the Court to hear appeals from Scotland, and also to enable such appeals to be heard in Edinburgh.

Photo of Lady  Grant of Monymusk Lady Grant of Monymusk , Aberdeen South

In the period 1939–63, the House of Lords gave judgments in 184 appeals from the Court of Session. In 78 of these cases the judgment of the Court of Session was reversed. The answer to the second part of the Question is, "No, Sir."

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Govan

Is it not absurd that in all those cases Scottish lawyers had to come to London, bringing with them senior and junior counsel, and there engage to prosecute the case English solicitors who had not previously been concerned with it? Would it not be wiser if the process were reversed and the Law Lords were allowed, by Statute or otherwise, to sit from time to time in, say, Edinburgh when necessary? Would not that be a more sensible arrangement than to go on incurring the enormous legal costs which are involved when an appeal against a Court of Session decision is taken to the Law Lords sitting in London?

Photo of Lady  Grant of Monymusk Lady Grant of Monymusk , Aberdeen South

I understand that the present position has obtained since the Union, and there has been no widespread demand that it should be altered.

Photo of Mr Hector Hughes Mr Hector Hughes , Aberdeen North

In Scottish appeals care is always taken to ensure that at least one Scottish Law Lord sits with the other Law Lords. But, having regard to the great difference between Scottish law and English law, would it not be in accordance with justice if care were taken to ensure that a majority of Scottish Law Lords sat to hear Scottish appeals?

Photo of Lady  Grant of Monymusk Lady Grant of Monymusk , Aberdeen South

I think that Scots law is well represented in the House of Lords as at present constituted. On the suggestion that the Law Lords should go to Edinburgh, it would be very difficult to separate the judicial and legislative functions of the House in this way.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Govan

Surely the noble Lady will not take up such a conservative attitude to what now is almost regarded as a necessity. Is it not a fact that over the last two or three years the number of appeals to the House of Lords has enormously increased? Is it not true that in far too many cases Scottish Law Lords are in the minority when appeals are being heard in these precincts? Are not these two matters which should engage the noble Lady's attention before her Government finally pass from this Chamber?

Photo of Lady  Grant of Monymusk Lady Grant of Monymusk , Aberdeen South

The number of Scottish appeals heard each year from 1961 to 1963 was nine, four and seven. I do not consider that excessive. As I said earlier, Scottish law is well represented in the House of Lords.