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 Immigration and Asylum Committee issued a briefing on the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill ahead of its second reading in the House of Commons on 16 January 2019.
The Bill repeals provisions of retained EU law relating to free movement, such as the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 and section 7 of the Immigration Act 1988. Such action is an anticipated consequence of the UK’s departure from the EU. Given the significant impact of this legislation on EU nationals living in the UK, we would urge the UK Government to ensure that there is widespread publicity in advance of commencement to ensure that all those who will be affected are aware of its effect. This should include publicity in a range of European languages to maximise the effectiveness of this communication.
Our Pensions Law, Consumer Law and Privacy Law committees submitted a joint response to the Department for Work and Pensions’ consultation on the creation of pensions dashboards.
We support the objective of creating a platform which would allow individuals to access their pensions information in a single location. This could be an excellent way to encourage individuals to engage with pension planning and provide them with an overview of their likely financial situation in retirement.
However, we are concerned about some of the practical aspects of implementation. One of the most important objectives is to ensure that people can understand and correctly interpret the information contained on the dashboard. We are also concerned that the scheme could be costly and that these expenses would be borne by the public purse. We have suggested that there should be a thorough cost benefit analysis and impact assessment of the proposal.
Our Criminal Law Committee responded to the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee’s call for views on the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill.
We believe that the public has a right to know the limitations of the criminal law and we welcome clarification of the law in this area. As the law currently stands, it is a matter for the defence to establish the defence of reasonable chastisement. Each case, as it arises, will be considered on its facts and circumstances.
The Bill would bring Scots law into line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on this issue and Scotland would be joining several other countries which fully protect children from physical punishment.
Our Competition Law and Consumer Law committees submitted a joint response to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) consultation on its draft annual plan for 2019 to 2020.
Overall, we welcome the draft priorities set out in the consultation document and support the themes which will be used to select and conduct casework.
However, we are concerned by the anticipated impact on the CMA if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement. We recognise the CMA’s statutory duty to investigate qualifying mergers and state aid cases and it is right that these obligations are met as a matter of urgency. Nevertheless, the implication that the CMA might not have enough resources to continue effective enforcement action against cartels and other important tasks such as market investigations is deeply concerning and potentially sends conflicting messages. Without sustained enforcement, we believe that the UK will be unable to position itself as global leader in this area.