So the Foot and Mouth crisis is under control and life in our legislatures can get back to normal. The cynic may ask what exactly “normal” means but for those whose occupation involves close inspection of the parliamentary process it is a codeword for “treadmill”.
At Westminster, the welter of law making continues in a rush to cross the royal assent line before the election. Some people thought that devolution would excise Scottish law issues from Westminster and Whitehall. Experience is however telling a different story.The Criminal Justice and Police bill, the Culture and Recreation bill, the Finance bill, the International Criminal Court bill, the Social Security Fraud bill and the Special educational Needs and Disability bill all contain provisions relating to Scotland. Some of these are extremely important and touch upon issues such as the duty of confidentiality and powers of search and seizure. The Society has been closely involved in commenting on these measures and where appropriate promoting amendments and briefing MPs and Peers.
The Society was praised by the government for its comments on the International Criminal Court Bill which aimed to ensure that the bill is workable in the Scottish context.
At the election a number of MPs will retire from Westminster. It might not be politic to single individuals for special mention but the contributions of Robert McLennan and Norman Godman to the process of Parliamentary scrutiny have been most marked. All but one of the SNP MPs (Alec Salmond) are retiring to concentrate on the Scottish Parliament. This could be interpreted as an attempt to avoid receiving the Society’s briefings but in fact there is no escape.
In the Scottish Parliament the Westminster election has a different effect. Although there is no imperative to complete the passage of legislation the mood is one of expectation and MSPs are preparing for collateral (and sometimes intense) involvement - Phil Gallie.
The Committees are dealing with an incredible workload much of which is important to the legal system. For example the Justice 1 Committee is dealing with amongst other things the Legal Aid Enquiry, the Convention Rights (Compliance) (Scotland) bill, an enquiry into Regulation of the Legal Profession, whereas Justice 2 Committee is dealing with an enquiry into the Crown and Procurator Fiscal Service, the International Criminal Court (Scotland) bill, issues regarding prisons and other important matters.
Other committees which are working extremely hard include the Subordinate Legislation committee, the Petitions Committee, the Equal Opportunities Committee, the Health and Community Care Committee which is dealing with the Regulation of Care (Scotland)bill and the European Committee.
All in all the Society’s Law Reform team have their work cut out for them.If you would like further information please contact Michael P. Clancy or Anne Keenan.