The Society’s committees have been working on a number of Scottish Parliament and UK Parliamentary Bills and consultations including the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill, the Great Repeal Bill White Paper and the beneficial ownership register.
The Constitutional Law Sub-Committee responded to the UK Government’s Great Repeal Bill White Paper which sets out the government’s proposals for ensuring a functioning statute book once the UK has left the EU.
We welcome the publication of the White Paper and have urged the UK Government to consult as soon as possible on the Great Repeal Bill draft clauses. This will ensure the widest possible discussion and debate in advance of the introduction of the Bill following the Queen’s Speech on 19 June 2017.
We have also raised specific concerns about the use of Henry VIII powers, their proper scrutiny and the relationship of the exercise of those powers with devolution. The Sewel Convention does not apply to the exercise of secondary legislative powers and the White Paper gives no indication of the extent to which secondary legislation will be consulted upon. We have recommended that each order be consulted on and accompanied by a financial memorandum and economic impact assessment.
The Property and Land Law Reform Sub-Committee and the Banking, Company and Insolvency Law Sub-Committee responded to the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) consultation on a beneficial ownership register to increase the transparency of overseas companies investing in UK property or tendering for public contracts.
We fully support the aims of the proposal in increasing transparency and in seeking to combat money laundering, corruption and terrorism. We do not condone the use of legitimate business structures for criminal intent and purposes and are fully supportive of proportionate, appropriate and targeted measures aimed at preventing this. Furthermore, the Scottish legal profession serves clients across the globe and we recognise the benefits which may result from a more transparent economy and welcome measures to encourage investment.
However, in considering any proposed measures, care should also be taken to avoid introducing measures which may impose a burden on legitimate businesses and commercial activities but which may not effectively dissuade those businesses or individuals who are intent on criminal behaviour. It is also important to ensure that the system fits around the different property law systems in the various UK jurisdictions.
The Pensions Law Sub-Committee responded to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) consultation on the draft Occupational Pensions Schemes (Employer Debt) (Amendment) Regulations 2017.
We note that the proposed deferred debt arrangement option may provide some relief to a limited number of employers but the circumstances are limited and there will be additional costs in meeting the complicated conditions. We have encouraged the DWP to consider the simpler option of amending the multi-employer debt provisions so that ceasing to employ active members does not trigger employer debt. This option would mean that employers are treated in a way that is consistent with the treatment of employers in multi-employer schemes as well as the position that applies in single employer schemes. Legislation is already in place to prevent employers abandoning, seeking to abandon or avoiding liabilities in those types of schemes. Deferral would therefore occur in all cases unless a particular employer decided to pays its debt in full.
The Health and Medical Law Sub-Committee responded to the UK Government’s Department for Health consultation on protecting whistleblowers seeking jobs in the NHS.
In order to provide clarity we suggested that consideration should be given to the Thomson Reuter Foundation and Blueprint for Free Speech report which made a number of key recommendations which, following research of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) and relevant cases, made a number of key recommendations which seek to afford greater help and to improve protection for whistleblowers in the UK.
Crucially the report identifies that the PIDA lacks the most critical element of any whistleblower protection framework –preventing or quickly stopping the full retaliation of the whistle-blower by his or her employer. Pre-retaliation protection mechanisms are not included in the PIDA.