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Law reform roundup

16 July 12

Recent work of the Society's Law Reform Department, including on the Groceries Adjudicator and Financial Services Bills; Tax Law Committee; regulation of healthcare professionals; the McKay Commission

Groceries Adjudicator Bill

This House of Lords bill sets up an adjudicator who will arbitrate between suppliers and large retailers. It throws up a number of questions about the independence of the adjudicator from government, legal professional privilege and application of arbitration good practice. The Society prepared a number of amendments, now tabled by Lord Browne of Ladyton, which seek to protect legal professional privilege and confidentiality for communications between individuals and their lawyer, and to ensure that the adjudicator’s role is politically independent. Further amendments have been proposed to reflect provisions of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill.

Financial Services Bill

The Financial Services Bill creates a new structure for regulating the financial services industry and the banks. The bill empowers the Financial Policy Committee of the Bank of England and creates the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. The Society submitted amendments at committee stage which covered issues such as ensuring widespread representation from across the UK on the various authorities, and preserving due process in the disposal of complaints. The amendments have been tabled by Lord McFall of Alcuith.

Tax Law Committee update

As part of its increasing responsibilities under the Scotland Act 2012, the Scottish Parliament will have responsibility for a tax on land transactions from April 2015, when the current UK stamp duty land tax will be replaced. The Scottish Government has published a consultation paper entitled Taking Forward a Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, which sets out proposals for a replacement tax and invites comments and suggestions. The Tax and Property Law Committees will be responding before the deadline of 30 August. The Government has also organised a number of stakeholder events during July and August, which may be of interest to members. Details can be found at www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Government/Finance/scottishapproach/lbtt.

The Tax Law Committee will also respond to a UK Government consultation on a General Anti-Abuse Rule, which follows a report published in November last year by Graham Aaronson QC and takes forward his recommendation that a rule targeted at artificial and abusive tax avoidance schemes would improve the UK’s ability to tackle tax avoidance. The deadline for responses is 14 September. www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/tax_avoidance_gaar.htm

Regulation of healthcare professionals

The Society responded to the Law Commissions’ joint consultation, stating that it was generally supportive of a general review of UK legislation relating to the regulation of healthcare professionals considering that there are now 31 different healthcare professions governed by nine separate regulatory bodies. While the proposal to build a more consolidated system which is easier to understand is welcome, any system must also have at its heart procedural fairness in terms of article 6, and the requirement to consider devolved arrangements.

The Mackay Commission

The Society was asked to provide evidence to the McKay Commission. The Society in its response stated that it is not possible to devise a workable procedural solution to the West Lothian Question within the confines of the existing system of asymmetrical devolution.

Further information on the current work of the Law Reform Department, including the lists of proposed amendments and the consultation responses referred to above, can be found at www.lawscot.org.uk/forthepublic/law-reform-consultations, and the team can be contacted on any of these matters at lawreform@lawscot.org.uk, or follow us on twitter @lawscot

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