Our policy committees have had a busy month analysing and responding to proposed changes in the law. We do this to positively influence the creation of a fairer and more just society through our active engagement with the Scottish and United Kingdom Governments, Parliaments, wider stakeholders and our membership.
You can read more about some of the month's highlights below:
Our Health and Medical Law Committee issued a briefing ahead of the Scottish Parliament’s stage 1 debate on the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill.
We believe that public awareness is crucial, and we support the Health and Sport Committee’s recommendation for a high profile and targeted public information campaign to meet the needs of our diverse society. However, we feel that any publicity should be over a prolonged period and start sooner than the 12 months recommended by the committee.
We also feel that the role of the family will be crucial in the success of the proposed opt-out organ donation system. Currently, the wishes of the family are considered, but this has developed through custom and practice, rather than by legislation. The new proposals do not place a duty on healthcare professionals to find out the wishes of the family, but instead to determine the family’s knowledge of the potential donor’s wishes. In practdical terms, it would be difficult to proceed against the wishes of the family, and specific guidance should be published for families and healthcare professionals on the consequences of a soft opt-out scheme.
Our Privacy Law Committee responded to the UK Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into whether new safeguards to regulate the collection, use, tracking, retention and disclosure of personal data by private companies are needed in the new digital environment to protect human rights.
The safeguards set out in the General Data Protection Regulation go a long way to addressing potential concerns in a UK context. However, we are concerned that consumers are not aware of all the ways in which their data is being used and think that governments and data collecting corporations should work together to establish industry-wide standards of good practice in the management of personal data. Industry should be proactively addressing these issues, rather than just reacting to the latest data scandal.
International human rights standards can be helpful in promoting protection of individuals’ rights, including privacy rights. Global principles such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights can be helpful in setting a standard for compliance. If they are well publicised, these principles could help create and reinforce consumer trust.
Our Criminal Law Committee responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on consolidating all Scottish hate crime legislation and expanding statutory aggravations.
We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to tackle hate crime and prejudice by bringing forward the modernisation and consolidation of hate crime legislation. The existing legislation has developed in a fragmentary fashion over many years and further clarification of the law in this area is vital to the wider public interest.
However, legislation alone cannot eradicate hate crime. We believe that the legislation should be supported by public awareness and education campaigns to change societal attitudes and achieve overall objectives.
Our Immigration and Asylum Committee responded to the UK Government’s White Paper on plans to introduce a new single immigration system, ending free movement.
We have concerns with what appears to be a difference in treatment of nationalities based on whether the country in question is ‘low risk’. Such a difference in treatment requires a proportionate justification to be lawful. To that end, we would request clarification of what ‘low risk’ means, how this definition has been arrived at, and why it is a proportionate justification for the difference in treatment.
We welcome the decision not to impose a cap on the number of skilled workers who can enter the UK, and the commitment to review the administrative burdens on employer sponsors.