Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd March 2016.
I hesitate to say that anything is “entirely flawed”, but I will come on to the remit of my committee and what we might do in future, if the member will bear with me.
I am grateful to our clerks and legal advisers for their painstaking work. I also recognise and put on record our appreciation of the essential role of Gregor Clark as draftsman for the Scottish Law Commission, and the invaluable evidence of the Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, the Accountant in Bankruptcy and Scottish Government officials.
We also received evidence from practitioners. Their time and effort was very much appreciated. Not only did they challenge some of the proposals but in the process they also reassured us that the rest of the draft bill was fit for purpose.
I want to reflect on the changed remit of the committee. When I became convener of the Subordinate Legislation Committee in 2011, we looked only at subordinate legislation and the delegated powers in bills. Our remit has subsequently been expanded to allow us to progress non-contentious bills that are drafted by the Scottish Law Commission and to allow us to consider consolidation bills such as the one that is before us.
That has enabled the Parliament to do more. Three bills that would otherwise probably not have been dealt with have been fully considered and progressed to royal assent. I know that the Scottish Law Commission is grateful that such a mechanism now exists, but I note in passing that there is a risk that it will tailor its work to my committee’s remit rather than the wider reconsideration of the law that would obviously be more appropriate.
The committee’s revised remit has enabled us to address contract law in the Legal Writings (Counterparts and Delivery) (Scotland) Bill, the law of succession and the law on bankruptcy. The list gives me a clue as to the range of other legislation that it might be appropriate for the committee to consider, for the issues are all part of what is termed “private law”. Given that the pressure on the Justice Committee will never go away, as that committee’s convener has just said, I suggest that private law might be an area in which the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee might in future help the Justice Committee out a bit further.
I want to reflect on the committee’s membership and our way of working. As a legislature, the Scottish Parliament enacts just over one statute per month but almost one statutory instrument per day. The Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee considers each and every one of those instruments. Members will know that we are not concerned with the merits of the policy but must consider the instrument to ensure that the powers that it provides will do what the policy describes. We worry about the technicalities—all of them.
We are the Parliament’s engine room. That is not everyone’s cup of tea, of course, and I have no doubt that in times past the whips have found that the mere threat of sending someone to sub leg has been enough to bring some recalcitrant MSPs back into line. However, we need the right people to don the legislative boiler suit, and those members need to be prepared to work collegiately.