Oral Answers to Questions — Courts (Industrial Dispute)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th March 1979.

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Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Stirlingshire West 12:00 am, 14th March 1979

asked the Lord Advocate whether he will make a statement about the effects on his Department of recent industrial action by court employees.

Photo of Mr Ronald Murray Mr Ronald Murray , Edinburgh Leith

Summary trials are proceeding in the district courts and normal trials in about a quarter of the sheriff courts. No other prosecutions are proceeding at present. It is not possible to estimate how long these will be delayed.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Stirlingshire West

Will my right hon. and learned Friend condemn yesterday's wild statements by the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn), whose vicious attacks on the trade union movement could help to inflame the situation? Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the hon. and learned Member seems to forget that the court workers would probably return to work tomorrow if they received the same fat wage packet as the hon. and learned Member received through membership of that well known closed shop, the Faculty of Advocates?

Photo of Mr Ronald Murray Mr Ronald Murray , Edinburgh Leith

The hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) is not in his place. However, the colourful and intemperate language that he used yesterday did not contribute to a peaceful settlement of this industrial dispute. The hon. and learned Member sought to put the blame firmly on the Government. That was quite misplaced. To that extent I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan). If any doctrine is responsible for the strike in the Scottish courts, it is the doctrine of free collective bargaining, which is different from the responsible collective bargaining in which the Government believe.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

Is not the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) being outrageous? Does the Lord Advocate agree that the speech by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) was one of the best that we have heard in the Commons? It resulted in the Government taking action which they should have taken a fortnight ago. Does the Lord Advocate agree that part of the major problem in industrial relations is that the Government do not use common sense and reason but resort only to the misuse of irresponsible power?

Photo of Mr Ronald Murray Mr Ronald Murray , Edinburgh Leith

The hon. Member is being indignant. I do not agree with him. If he feels so strongly about this matter he should have arranged to take part in the debate yesterday.

Photo of Mr Ronald Murray Mr Ronald Murray , Edinburgh Leith

A review is currently taking place covering the classification of drugs and the penalties for drug offences. The adequacy of the existing law will be considered in light of that review.

Photo of Mr Gordon Wilson Mr Gordon Wilson , Dundee East

Will the Lord Advocate accept my thanks for the inquiry? Is he aware that in Tayside drug abuse has risen threefold in the last year? Does he agree that the nature of the law on drugs and the penalties should be given attention?

Photo of Mr Ronald Murray Mr Ronald Murray , Edinburgh Leith

I am aware of the situation in Tayside. Similar problems exist in other parts of the country. I take note of the anxiety expressed by hon. Members here and in the Standing Committee on the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill.