Commenting on the Queen’s speech today, 21 June 2017, Law Society of Scotland President Graham Matthews, said:
“Today’s Queen’s speech sets out the UK Government’s legislative programme for the next two years. As expected, there is a heavy focus on the legislative work that will be required for us to leave the European Union and the need to provide stability during that process.
“A Bill to repeal the European Communities Act, which will incorporate all existing EU law into UK law, is one of eight Bills to be brought forward in relation to exiting the EU.
“We need to be sure there is clarity on how current EU law is incorporated into UK domestic law and we have recommended that once the process of identifying EU derived UK Law is complete, this body of law should be collated to form an easily identifiable and accessible collection. It would also be useful to have a definition of ‘domestic’ law given that we have three devolved administrations in addition to the UK Parliament.
“In our recent response to the UK Government’s Great Repeal Bill White Paper, we raised specific concerns about the use of Henry VIII powers, their proper scrutiny and the relationship of the exercise of those powers with devolution – Henry VIII powers enable the government to repeal or amend a Bill after it has become an Act of parliament, without further parliamentary scrutiny. The Sewel Convention, which does not allow the UK Parliament to legislate for devolved matters without the consent of the devolved administration affected, does not apply to the exercise of secondary legislative powers and the White Paper has given no indication of the extent to which secondary legislation will be consulted upon.
“As the UK Government moves forward in its negotiations on how we leave the EU, it will be essential to involve each of the devolved administrations. We have particular concerns as the Scotland Act 1998 embeds EU law into the fabric of Scottish devolution and think that each order should be consulted on and should also be accompanied by a financial memorandum and economic impact assessment.
“There is an enormous amount of work required in a relatively short period of time during the negotiation period and even once the negotiations are completed, the number of supporting acts will lead to an unprecedented period of law reform and policy development across the UK in the years to come.
“Brexit has huge implications for everyone in the UK and in Europe. We are encouraged that both the UK Government and EU Council consider the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK and UK citizens’ rights in the EU to be of high importance. This includes solicitors who work in a number of European countries as well as many EU nationals who work as solicitors here in Scotland. We will continue to press for our members to be able to practise and advise their clients wherever they are based.
“The UK Government also intends to bring forward a Counter Terrorism Bill. There is a clear need for the government to provide effective measures to ensure the safety and security of everyone living in the UK. However, any proposals must not breach human rights law and any changes to human rights for terrorist suspects must conform to the rule of law and not put the UK in breach of its international obligations.”