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Law reform update

17 May 10

Recent work of the Society's Law Reform Department, including Legal Services Bill, Interpretation and Legislative Reform Bill, planning law, Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill, tax agents, pensions

Legal Services (Scotland) Bill

MSPs gave their backing to the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill at the stage 1 debate on 28 April, but agreed that amendments were needed at stage 2 to address concerns. The Society welcomed the overwhelming endorsement by MSPs of the principles of the bill and agreed that amendments are needed at stage 2. The Society intends to put forward a number of amendments based on concerns raised at stage 1, for example in relation to the role of the Lord President and the lack of obligation on Scottish Ministers to consult when making regulations.

Interpretation and Legislative Reform Bill

The Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Bill was passed in Parliament on 28 April. The Society's working party did not submit further amendments at stage 3, however were grateful for the support of Helen Edie MSP who did submit further amendments drawn from those made by the Society at stage 2. One of these would have increased from 28 to 40 days the minimum period before an SSI subject to negative procedure can come into force after being laid before the Parliament. Unfortunately the amendment was withdrawn and the subsequent amendment not moved.

Alcohol Etc (Scotland) Bill

Stage 1 of the bill has been extended and the report delayed, due to the Health and Sport Committee calling for further evidence, which took place on 5 May.

Planning law

The Planning Law Subcommittee is currently considering responses to two Scottish Government consultations, the first being a consultation on the Planning Obligation and Good Neighbour Agreement Regulations 2010, and the second on tree preservation orders.

Both consultations are due to be submitted in July.

Criminal Justice and Licensing

The Society has responded to a further call for evidence at stage 2 of this bill with regard to stalking and knife crime, as well as the licensing of adult entertainment venues.

Working with tax agents

The Tax Law Subcommittee submitted comments to HMRC's follow-up consultation on tax agents, which looked at disclosure to professional bodies; dealing with deliberate wrongdoing by tax agents; and dealing with high volume agents. Among the points raised, the Society expressed concerns that the proposals in relation to deliberate wrongdoing are very wide ranging and give HMRC significantly wider powers. The Society suggested that the introduction of new powers should be delayed until the impact of the relatively new powers and penalty regime already in place are known.

Pensions consultations

The Pensions Law Subcommittee has responded to a consultation from the Pensions Regulator entitled “Record-Keeping; Measuring Member Data”.

The consultation describes good practice proposals developed by the Pensions Regulator and also sets out proposed regulatory standards for member data. In its response, the committee outlined practical concerns about regulations and suggested ways to make them more effective. It continues to monitor upcoming consultations and is in the process of preparing a number of other consultation responses for May.

For further information on any of the above, email

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