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Parliamentary debates and questions

Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee 30 October 2018

The agenda for the day:

Decision on Taking Business in Private, Instrument subject to Negative Procedure.

Decision on Taking Business in Private
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The Convener (Graham Simpson)

I welcome everyone to the 31st meeting in 2018 of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee.

Under agenda item 1, it is proposed that the committee takes in private item 3, which is consideration of the delegated powers provisions in the Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. Does the committee agree to take that item in private?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener

I should have mentioned that we have received apologies from Neil Findlay and Alison Harris.

Instrument subject to Negative Procedure
Council Tax Reduction (Scotland) Amendment (No 3) Regulations 2018 (SSI 2018/295)

The Convener

The regulations make further amendments to the Council Tax Reduction (Scotland) Regulations 2012 (SSI 2012/303) and the Council Tax Reduction (State Pension Credit) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 (SSI 2012/319), which are the principal regulations. There are two issues for the committee to address, the first of which is a drafting error that relates to the definition of

“an error on a point of law”

that is contained in regulation 4(a). The error has been acknowledged by the Scottish Government.

Does the committee wish to draw the regulations to the attention of the Parliament on reporting ground (i), as there appears to be defective drafting in regulation 4(a)?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener

Does the committee wish to recommend that, if the Scottish Government assesses that that drafting error could have some unintended effects, it might be preferable to bring forward an amendment to correct the error promptly, given that the provisions will come into force on 28 November?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener

The second issue relates to the question whether the regulations raise a devolution issue, as they might relate to matters that are reserved under section F1 of part II of schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998, which concerns social security schemes. As the committee knows, we have considered that question each time the principal regulations have been amended. This is the fifteenth such amendment of the principal regulations. On the five amendments that have been considered this session, the committee has agreed, on division, to report that the regulations raise a devolution issue. The committee recognises that the Scottish Government takes a contrary view.

Since September 2016, new exception 10 to the social security reservation has given the Parliament powers to create new benefit schemes in areas of devolved responsibility where the requirements of the exception are satisfied, including that the new scheme must be funded from the Scottish consolidated fund.

When the committee reported on the Council Tax Reduction (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2017 (SSI 2017/41), it suggested to the Scottish Government that framing a new scheme in consolidating regulations could remove the committee’s concern, if that scheme were to comply with the requirements of exception 10. To date, the Scottish Government has indicated that it has no plans to undertake a consolidation. Therefore, it seems unlikely that the difference of view on the devolution issue will be resolved in the immediate future.

Do members have any comments?

Members: No.

The Convener

As the committee has clearly stated its position on the devolution issue and its possible resolution in previous reports, does the committee consider that it is not necessary to repeat that view again, and for that to be explained in the report on the regulations before us?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener

Does the committee wish to continue to encourage the Scottish Government to undertake a consolidation of the principal regulations within a reasonable timescale in the interests of clarity and accessibility?

Members indicated agreement.

10:05 Meeting continued in private until 10:08.