Recent work of the Society's Law Reform department, including lobbying proposals; English Votes for English Laws; rights of the child; smoking in cars

Proposals for a Lobbying Bill

Responding to the Scottish Government’s consultation on proposals for a statutory register of lobbying activity in Scotland, the Society reiterated the important and legitimate role of lobbying, and support for full transparency. However, the consultation did not ask two important questions: “What is a lobbyist?” and “What is meant by lobbying activity?” These need to be answered to ensure clear definitions in any future legislation of the basis on which organisations will determine whether they need to register. The Society also raised concerns around proposals for individuals rather than organisations to register, which go against recommendations by the Parliament’s Inquiry into Lobbying; and that only face-to-face meetings would be covered by the requirement to register, and not telephone conversations, emails or videoconferencing.

English Votes for English Laws

The Constitutional Law Committee submitted two briefings on the UK Government’s EVEL proposals to change the standing orders of the House of Commons. Due to the fast-moving political environment, they focused on the fact that the changes were of considerable importance. The debate has swiftly developed into a major constitutional issue. The briefings detailed legal questions that arise – in particular, the role of the Speaker in deciding whether or not a particular bill would constitute an English or English and Welsh law for these purposes. This is not determined simply by looking at the extent provisions: it requires a significant constitutional and legal assessment of the measure, how it may operate in practice and what its legal effect might be.

UN Convention on Rights of the Child

In June, Family Law Committee member Professor Elaine Sutherland organised the third annual colloquium, held in Edinburgh, for experts from around the world to discuss the implementation of the Convention. This year’s colloquium focused on article 3 (the “best interests” and welfare principles), with themes including adoption, paramountcy v primacy, structural/institutional/social influences, and challenges relating to non-traditional family types. Ideas were developed from different disciplines, including child development, and from many different jurisdictions.

Smoking in cars

Following the Society’s oral evidence session on the Smoking Prohibition (Children in Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Bill, the Health & Sport Committee asked for supplementary written evidence on points raised. This covers the Society’s views on whether a conviction under the proposed legislation might trigger a report to the child’s named person under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 and whether such a report would be a proportionate response, and explores the possibility of a referral to a children’s hearing, as well as reiterating concerns regarding enforceability and whether the driver should be the person held responsible.

Full details of the above, and further information on the current work of the law reform department, can be found at www.lawscot.org.uk/forthepublic/law-reform-consultations-and-bills
The team can be contacted on any of the matters above through louisedocherty@lawscot.org.uk or follow us on twitter: @lawscot
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