Recent work of the Society's Law Reform Department, including public services reform, mental health, arbitration, file sharing and statutory interpretation

Public Services Reform Bill

The Public Services Reform Bill seeks to simplify the procedures for altering public bodies, dissolve some public bodies and create a number of new public bodies. On 22 September, Michael Clancy, Director of Law Reform for the Society, gave oral evidence on the bill to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee.

The Society’s biggest concern relates to the nature of delegated powers in Part 2 of the bill. Sections 10-13 provide for very broad order-making powers, which would allow Scottish Ministers to make amendments that would be subject only to the affirmative resolution procedure. The concern is that this procedure does not require the same level of scrutiny as an Act of Parliament. 

Mental health review

The Mental Health and Disability Subcommittee is currently considering a consultation on the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003. It arises out of a report by a review group set up by Shona Robison MSP, Minister of Public Health and Sport. The review group was asked to consider the efficiency and patient experience of the Act, and reported back to Ms Robison with recommendations in March 2009.

Arbitration (Scotland) Bill

The Arbitration (Scotland) Bill was introduced in January 2009. It aims to clarify and consolidate Scottish arbitration law, and provides a default framework for arbitrations. The Society has formed a working party to monitor the bill and provide input.

The working party provided written submissions at stage 1 and amendments at stage 2, which the bill has now passed. It hopes to submit further amendments at stage 3. In addition, it has met the Scottish Government bill team and Jim Mather MSP, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, on a number of occasions. The working party was able to persuade the Government to make a number of amendments to the bill.

Peer-to-peer file sharing

The Intellectual Property Law Subcommittee has responded to a consultation from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills on illegal peer-to-peer file sharing. This dealt with proposed legislation requiring internet service providers to notify subscribers if they are infringing copyright and to keep records on subscribers who frequently breach copyright.

The subcommittee expressed concerns that the proposed measures fail to adequately protect the presumption of innocence, may lead to unreasonable intrusions, and entail penalties which may not be proportionate to the harm caused.

Interpretation Bill

The Society has given both written and oral evidence on the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Bill. The bill is highly technical and deals with the publication, interpretation and operation of Acts of the Scottish Parliament. The Society has commented on several issues, including the electronic service of documents and whether there should be a presumption that the Crown is bound by such Acts.

Share this article
Add To Favorites