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Chamber and committees

Criminal Justice Committee

Meeting date: Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Agenda: Decision on Taking Business in Private, Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, Priorities in the Justice Sector and an Action Plan, Subordinate Legislation


Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill

The Convener

Our next item of business is consideration of the legislative consent memorandum on the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill. I am pleased to welcome the Minister for Community Wealth and Public Finance, Tom Arthur, and three of his Scottish Government officials: Mr George Burgess, director, agriculture and rural economy; Mr George Dickson, team leader, defence, security and detect and disrupt; and Ms Kirsty Anderson, solicitor, directorate for legal services. I refer members to paper 1.

Before we start our questioning, I want to make members aware of one point. Late yesterday afternoon, the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee published its report on the LCM—its 32nd report of 2023. The report, which was circulated to this committee’s members as soon as it was published, makes a series of points that are mostly about the powers in the bill for a United Kingdom secretary of state to make regulations in devolved areas, with Scottish ministers’ consent. The DPLR Committee wants the Scottish Parliament to have the opportunity to scrutinise Scottish ministers’ consent decisions when such situations arise.

On that note, I invite the minister to make some opening remarks, after which we will move to questions.

The Minister for Community Wealth and Public Finance (Tom Arthur)

I thank the committee for the opportunity to address members on the legislative consent memorandum on the UK Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill. The Scottish Government corrected the memorandum by letter on 19 May to say that paragraph 115 should refer to amendment 77L instead of amendment 77B.

The bill is the second part of a UK-wide legislative package to prevent the abuse of UK corporate structures and to tackle economic crime. The Scottish Government fully supports the bill’s policy intention, and the bill itself follows on from the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022, which received royal assent on 15 March 2022.

The Scottish Government welcomes the constructive engagement that it has had with UK Government ministers and officials on aspects of the bill and subsequent UK Government amendments that impact on devolved areas. The legislative consent motion recommends giving consent for the majority of the bill but withholding it from some provisions in the meantime, in the hope that issues can be resolved through engagement with the UK Government. Such an approach is recommended, because the provisions of amendment 77L, which would introduce proposed new schedule 6 to the 2022 act, and proposed new section 303Z42 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, as inserted by schedule 7 to the bill, fall within the Scottish Parliament’s legislative competence and provide for the power to make regulations without consent.

The Scottish Government remains acutely aware of the Scottish Parliament’s consistent view on delegated powers that relate to devolved matters. There has been progress on that in the bill’s provisions on the register of overseas entities and Scottish limited partnerships, and we continue to explore the issue with the UK Government.

The policy objective of the register of overseas entities is to tackle money laundering by shedding light on who benefits from that property. The register itself is UK-wide. The Scottish Government is committed to improving transparency of those who own and control land in Scotland; we fully supported UK-wide emergency legislation that was introduced following the invasion of Ukraine last year and which established the register, and the bill includes provision to address gaps and loopholes that have been identified since the register’s introduction. Most of the amendments are technical and procedural, and a number are designed specifically as anti-avoidance measures to close loopholes that have been identified in relation to trusts. Those are exactly the kind of measures that we support to ensure that the register of overseas entities captures the most opaque of entities.

Elements of the register fall within the Scottish Parliament’s legislative competence and therefore require consent. We fully support the policy and issues that the provisions address, but at this stage the draft legislative consent motion recommends withholding consent from one of the provisions that was introduced at the Lords Grand Committee by amendment 77L. That is because it contains the power for the secretary of state to make regulations without any requirement to seek the consent of Scottish ministers, and without any restrictions being placed around the use of that power.

Although limited partnerships, including Scottish limited partnerships, are used for a range of legitimate business purposes, they have also been exploited by criminals for illegitimate purposes such as money laundering. The changes made by the bill include the introduction of a power for the courts to wind up limited partnerships in the public interest when such a move is just and equitable. For Scottish limited partnerships, such action by a court would come about following a petition by the secretary of state with the consent of Scottish ministers or following a petition by Scottish ministers. That is a welcome addition to the arsenal of weapons for tackling the abuse of limited partnerships.

There will be a regulation-making power that enables the secretary of state, with the consent of Scottish ministers, to make provisions governing the process of winding up Scottish limited partnerships in the public interest. The bill also includes provisions relating to the winding up of dissolved partnerships, notification requirements where there are concurrent proceedings and regulation-making powers to amend such notification requirements. The Scottish Government supports strengthening transparency requirements and action to tackle the abuse of limited partnerships, including Scottish limited partnerships, by expanding the winding-up provisions.

I now turn to the bill’s justice-related provisions. They are principally intended to strengthen powers to tackle economic crime and illicit finance, policy goals that the Scottish Government shares. The bill amends the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 to remove the existing statutory limit on financial penalties that can be imposed by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal for disciplinary matters relating to economic crime offences as defined by the bill. That change provides for a greater deterrent against money laundering and economic crime in respect of legal services in Scotland, while also providing for parity with England and Wales.

The bill includes provisions to strengthen the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002—POCA—to tackle the unlawful use of crypto assets. It also aims to make it easier for relevant businesses to share customer information with each other for the purposes of preventing, investigating and detecting economic crime by disapplying civil liability for breaches of confidentiality when information is shared for that purpose. It also aims to reduce unnecessary reporting by business and includes new powers for law enforcement to obtain further information to tackle money laundering and terrorism financing. It provides law enforcement agencies with additional powers so that they can seize, freeze and, ultimately, recover crypto assets that are the proceeds of crime or which are associated with illicit activity. That includes money laundering, fraud, ransomware attacks or terrorist financing.

The bill updates the criminal confiscation and civil recovery regimes under parts 3 and 5 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to ensure that they can be used effectively in tackling serious organised crime in relation to crypto assets and crypto asset-related items. Clause 167 of the bill introduces schedule 6, which amends POCA to make provision in connection with crypto assets and criminal confiscation orders following a criminal conviction in relation to persons who benefit from criminal conduct.

Clause 168 of the bill introduces proposed new schedule 7, which would amend POCA to create a new regime for the civil recovery of crypto assets and crypto asset-related items that have been obtained through unlawful conduct. Importantly, the provisions include the power to seize exempt property, with senior officer approval, if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that it includes crypto asset-related items such as laptops, wallet keys or codes that would assist law enforcement agencies in accessing the crypto assets. The initial detention period would be 48 hours, and that would be subject to further detention periods of 14 days at a time with court approval.

POCA is a UK-wide regime that relates to reserved and devolved matters. For example, powers on money laundering and drug trafficking are reserved to the UK Parliament, but the power on fraud matters is devolved. As the general approach of POCA is to keep a consistent regime across the UK jurisdictions, the Scottish Government believes that it is sensible for the proposed amendments to POCA to be made by the UK Parliament.

Separate from the POCA provisions, there is a new offence of failure to prevent fraud. The Scottish Government is keen for the new protections for victims to be realised in Scotland. Many of the relevant organisations operate across the whole of the UK, and the Scottish Government considers that the proposed UK legislation is proportionate.

I will conclude on that note, convener. I hope that the committee will support the legislative consent motion.

The Convener

Thank you very much, minister. A lot has been covered there. We will now move straight to the questioning, which I will open.

The extent and reach of the bill’s provisions are welcome. It is good to see these much-needed changes to our legislative provision on preventing economic crime and protecting our corporate infrastructure, with particular reference to Scotland.

I want to pick up on a couple of the provisions. I think that I have got my head round the first of them, having spent a bit of time reading through the papers ahead of this meeting. It relates to the provision that will create new exemptions from the principal money-laundering offences, to reduce unnecessary reporting by businesses carrying out transactions on behalf of their customers. I assume that that is possibly where the level of compliance is a little disproportionate.

I can bring you in first to respond, minister, and then I will come to my second question, if I may.

I am not sure whether George Burgess wants to come in on that.

I am really just looking for a bit more of an explanation of what the provision means.

George Burgess (Scottish Government)

Although money laundering is covered by the bill, it is a reserved area, so it is not covered by the legislative consent memorandum or the motion. We work with the UK Government in relation to money laundering, principally to ensure that any provisions work appropriately in Scots law, but the content of the provisions is reserved.

It is reserved. Okay.

George Dickson (Scottish Government)

I would add that, in our general discussions with the UK Government, we learned that its consultation with businesses was on the proposed reduction of the threshold for their reporting suspicious activity. That is where the aim comes in: it is to reduce the requirement for reporting where it is pretty clear that it is not actually needed.

The Convener

That is fine—that was my understanding.

You might want to respond in the same way to my other point, which is on the new powers for law enforcement agencies, allowing them to obtain information to tackle money laundering and the financing of terrorism. That would be quite a big new power for them, so I would like to hear some commentary on it. I wonder whether it would also incorporate international law enforcement agencies.

I will ask George Dickson to come in on that.

George Dickson

I assume that your question relates to crypto assets. The main powers for law enforcement agencies are to allow them to seize crypto-related items, which previously were not defined. On many occasions, they need to seize such items, which could include anything from a piece of paper with a password on it to a laptop. The aim is for them to be able to use those items to gain access to the crypto assets. That is the fundamental point of the provision.


Thank you—that was helpful.

Pauline McNeill (Glasgow) (Lab)

Good morning. I am trying to take this all in; I will ask a few questions. I have always been a strong believer in devolution, so I am always concerned if the UK Government attempts to undermine devolution in any way or to act without the Scottish Government’s consent. Will you say more about the UK Government’s rationale in this case?

Tom Arthur

As I said in my opening remarks, the position reflects the fact that the bill covers a number of areas that involve reserved and devolved competencies. We also want to take a proportionate approach.

You will be well aware and fully cognisant of the Scottish Government’s position on the UK Government’s approach to a range of devolution issues, but we have had constructive engagement on the bill. Following engagement by officials and ministers, the UK Government brought forward amendments. The legislative consent motion does not propose consent to the entire bill, but we hope that further discussion will provide the opportunity to remedy our outstanding concerns. Scottish ministers will meet their UK counterparts to engage later this week.

I recognise that timescales are tight now, but a constructive approach has been taken to ensure that we respect the devolution settlement and recognise that, in a bill that is as complex, substantial and long as this, issues might arise as a result of discrepancies or inconsistencies with the principles that we want to be upheld. Through a constructive process of engagement with the UK Government, we have remedied a number of issues. I hope that we will be able to do that with the outstanding items.

George Burgess

The minister has covered the situation well. There is no great policy difference between the Administrations or any great constitutional battle. We are trying to get to a sensible and reasonable position. We have identified in the memorandum some cases where—strictly speaking—we could have taken more of a purist approach and said that we absolutely required consent but, in recognition of the circumstances in which powers are likely to be used, we have opted to say that consulting will be sufficient, given the shared policy goal of tackling serious crime.

Pauline McNeill

Thank you—that is helpful.

My next question is unrelated. The bill will remove the statutory fine limit and allow the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal to set its own limits on financial penalties that are imposed for economic crime disciplinary matters. Traditionally, Parliament has set fines and fees for all sorts of disciplines—the Accountant in Bankruptcy comes to mind. It is right for Parliament to set some fines, because that is more democratic and allows people to see clearly how fines have been set.

In principle, I am not in favour of organisations setting fine limits for crime. You can correct me if I am wrong, but I think that this measure is in the context of financial penalties for economic crime disciplinary matters. That is surely a matter for Parliament and not for an organisation.

I certainly do not want to go down such a road. I oppose some fees being set by professions and I can think of lots of examples in relation to that. I know about the Accountant in Bankruptcy because it sets extraordinarily high fees for individuals who are trying to recover from their indebtedness. It is more democratic to let Parliament decide. I ask about the provision in the bill because I am sure that there is a reason for it.

Tom Arthur

I recognise the point that you make. The bill will strengthen deterrence, as I said in my initial remarks. It will also create parity with the equivalent regime in England, and safeguards will be in place. George Burgess or Kirsty Anderson might want to add to that.

Kirsty Anderson (Scottish Government)

The only thing that I will add is that the fine is unlimited in England and Wales, so the provision is just to make the approach consistent across the board.

George Burgess

The Regulation of Legal Services (Scotland) Bill, which is now before the Scottish Parliament, would give it a further opportunity to examine the issue if it wished to make any further adjustment to the provision. We recognise, though, that using the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill at Westminster will provide an early opportunity to close the quite significant gap between the law in England and that in Scotland.

Pauline McNeill

That all sounds perfectly reasonable, but why can the Scottish Parliament not just set an unlimited fine? The point that I am driving at is that the profession itself is going to set the fees for disciplinary matters. Are you saying that because English firms set their fines there is parity there?

As I said, the provision is about setting the fines, but it is also aimed at strengthening the measures that are in place to act as a deterrent for the behaviour that we are trying to reduce.

Pauline McNeill

I am fully supportive of that notion. My concern is about one micro-element: why would we not want the Scottish Parliament to set the fees? Why would you want the profession to set them? That is the bit that I do not understand. Is that where there is to be parity with England? I get the bit about unlimited fines, which makes absolute sense here.

George Burgess

I am not aware that any of the provision deals with fees; it is simply about fines, so that, where solicitors have facilitated economic crime, the disciplinary tribunal can give them rather more than a slap on the wrist.

I apologise—I meant fines. We are talking about a statutory fine limit.

George Burgess

We would want to ensure that there is not any internal market within the UK such that it is easier to get a Scottish solicitor to—

Pauline McNeill

I do not know whether I am making myself clear enough. I will finish on this point. The note that I have clearly talks about a measure removing

“the statutory fine limit to allow the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal to set its own limits”.

It does not say that, in parity with England, it could set no limit; it says that it allows it

“to set its own limits”

on financial penalties. I would be grateful if that could be clarified at some point. Why would you want Scottish solicitors to set their own fines in relation to serious organised crime activity? I do not understand why the Scottish Parliament would not set those limits.

George Burgess

It might be better to deal with that in correspondence. I point out that we are referring not to Scottish solicitors setting the fines but to the discipline tribunal, which regulates the profession, doing so. Nevertheless, there is control through the Court of Session, to which there is an appeal route from the discipline tribunal. It is not that the fines are uncontrolled in any way.

Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

I have completely forgotten what I was going to ask, but I will try to pick up the pieces and move on. I will have a second question that is linked to the one that Pauline McNeill has just asked.

My first question is on petitions to wind up limited partnerships. If I heard the minister correctly, I think that he said that the secretary of state can apply to a Scottish court with the consent or support of the Scottish ministers—I think that that was the language used—or that the Scottish ministers could raise a petition themselves. It therefore sounds as though there might be two avenues to petition the Scottish courts. What scenario planning has there been for any dispute resolution mechanism should the secretary of state intend to raise a petition but ministers disagree, or vice versa? I know that that is a minor technical point, and such a scenario might never happen, but I wonder what the process for dealing with it would be.

Tom Arthur

It is difficult to envisage such a scenario arising. There is no broad agreement on the policy intent of the legislation, but there is a need to ensure that the processes for effecting that are consistent with the devolution settlement—hence the amendments that we requested on consult and consent mechanisms, to which the UK Government acceded.

George Burgess might want to comment on the thinking behind that.

George Burgess

Not in great detail, but I will simply say that this is the sort of thing on which we would expect there to be good liaison between law enforcement agencies and public bodies. It is going to come down to a case-by-case analysis of which body is best placed to take it forward. It might be that, in a particular case, the secretary of state, Companies House and other such bodies have been most closely involved, in which case, presumably, the secretary of the state, with the consent of Scottish ministers, would be the best way to deal with that. On the other hand, it might be that the civil recovery unit at the Crown Office had been leading on the case. Law enforcement agencies will work out between them the most convenient forum—the best way of dealing with it—to get the right effect.

Tom Arthur

I think that that is how it would operate in practice, but I am conscious that that role in statute for Scottish ministers allows for direct accountability back to the Parliament, which is a particular concern of the Parliament and something that we have sought to ensure. However, in practice, it will be as George Burgess outlined and, if such a scenario arose, there would be a great degree of co-operation and co-ordination anyway. The possibility of a dispute arising in such a context seems remote, but, of course, there would be that means of Scottish ministers being held to account by Parliament for their decisions on consent.

Jamie Greene

That is fair enough; thank you for that.

My second question follows Pauline McNeill’s line of questioning around Scottish solicitors and the regulation around that. Obviously, the Government has introduced other legislation—the Regulation of Legal Services (Scotland) Bill. What is the Scottish Government doing, given that Scotland and England and Wales have different legal and regulatory systems around the judiciary and legal services, to ensure that serious organised criminal gangs that work across borders do not see one particular environment as an easier place to do business than the other? That is a more general policy question.

Tom Arthur

As the committee will be aware, the UK Government undertook extensive consultation ahead of the introduction of this legislation, but there has been a lot of close engagement between Scottish Government officials and UK Government officials, particularly in the Home Office. George Dickson or Kirsty Anderson might want to add something about the engagement with UK Government officials on that matter.

George Dickson

Yes, certainly. There has been an extensive conversation on all policy areas, of which there are quite a few. From our point of view, there has been close liaison to ensure that that works for Scotland.

Russell Findlay (West Scotland) (Con)

Good morning. I share the convener’s view that the bill is absolutely welcome. It has long been clear that Companies House can be abused by criminals and that it is not some abstract concept involving only overseas individuals or regimes; it matters here in Scotland. In fact, it is quite common to find multiple Companies House entries for individuals who are trying to hide their pasts or mask the true ownership of companies, and that includes individuals who are involved in high-end organised crimes, such as the drugs trade or VAT fraud. Therefore, it is all to be welcomed.

However, to be frank, the legislative consent motion has come to us as a committee at fairly short notice. It is highly complex. Even trying to read the report that we received last night was quite a challenge. I will try to bring it back to some simple questions. My opening question would be: given that the UK Government published this bill in September 2022, what has been the delay in getting the LCM to us?

Tom Arthur

I recognise the point that you make, Mr Findlay. We are having to operate to a challenging timetable, but, broadly, there are three elements. The first is just the complexity due to the nature of the bill itself—it is a very long bill. The second is the multilateral nature of engagement that has taken place with the Scottish Government at ministerial and official level. The third is that the bill has been subject to a significant number of amendments, up to and including the end of April. That has meant that it has been challenging to achieve clarity and to get to a position where we can consider the LCM, as we are doing today. Indeed, the LCM highlights specific areas where we are still seeking to reach the desired outcome with the UK Government.


I add that the situation that we are in reflects the fact we are dealing with a very complex piece of legislation that has been subject to a significant number of amendments. The bill does, of course, impinge on devolved competence, so the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government have had a role to play in that regard. The fact that we find ourselves in this situation is a reflection of that complexity, the volume of amendments to the bill and the amount of engagement—constructive engagement—that has taken place.

I would accept that there are broader lessons that we can reflect on as regards the process between the UK Parliament and the Scottish Parliament and between the UK and Scottish Governments, but with a piece of legislation of such complexity, it is perhaps unavoidable that we will encounter such issues.

Russell Findlay

My next question is whether we have reached the end of the road with this process. If we do not agree to the LCM today, is there an option for us to put it on ice? Is there still room for negotiation between the Scottish Government and the UK Government?

Tom Arthur

We are continuing to engage with the UK Government on the outstanding issues that I highlighted earlier. Of course, the timetable for the bill will be determined at Westminster. That is the context in which we must operate.

George Burgess might want to comment more broadly on where we are with the process and the timetabling, and when the bill will reach its next stage in the Lords and the Commons.

George Burgess

As the minister said, there will be engagement—probably later this week—with UK ministers on the small number of outstanding points that remain. Our hope is that, if agreement is reached and the UK Government brings forward some further amendments to make the necessary adjustments, we would be able to lodge a supplementary legislative consent memorandum and indicate agreement to the whole bill.

However, the timescale is not in our hands. The Lords committee has completed its consideration, but I do not think that a date has been set for the Lords report. Given the number of amendments that have been made in the Lords, the bill will, of course, have to return to the Commons. There are still a number of amending stages to go, so we are not quite at the end of the road.

We hope that the approach that is being taken will mean that we are able to do this in two bites: today, in relation to the main legislative consent memorandum; and later, in relation to a much shorter and simpler supplementary memorandum. If we had come to the Parliament at a much earlier stage, we would probably have indicated that there was a much larger number of areas in which there were outstanding issues, which might have involved coming back round the course two or three or four—

Russell Findlay

This might be more of a procedural point for the clerks, but if the committee does not support the legislative consent motion today, would it be competent or feasible for us to revisit it? Would we have time to do so?

We will come on to that.

Collette Stevenson (East Kilbride) (SNP)

Good morning. You touched on the fact that you have been in talks with the Home Office about the impact that the bill will have on devolved areas. I want to focus on whether any impact assessment has been done on the effect of the bill on the charitable sector and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, which is a devolved area. It is widely known that the charitable sector and trusts have been widely used for money laundering. Could you comment on that?

Tom Arthur

You draw attention to the fact that, although there is the general reservation on business associations, beyond that, the bill strays into devolved competency, which is what has triggered the legislative consent process. George Dickson might want to add something to that.

George Dickson

There is not much that I can add. From the point of view of dealing with crypto assets, we did not consult the Charity Commission on that. I am not sure about the extent to which the UK Government consulted on that.

Collette Stevenson

I ask that question wearing two hats. As well as being a member of this committee, I am convener of the Social Justice and Social Security Committee, which is considering the Charities (Regulation and Administration) (Scotland) Bill, a significant focus of which is OSCR and the associated reporting aspects. The UK bill could have a knock-on effect in that regard.

George Dickson

Other policy officials that deal with trusts might have had engagement on that. We can check that out with them.

Tom Arthur

If there is a specific question, I am happy to follow up in correspondence to clarify that. The general broad engagement that took place in the preparation of this legislation was undertaken by the UK Government, as it is a UK Government bill, but you highlighted an area where a devolved competence comes into play—hence the LCM. As we have said previously, we generally try to have as much coherence with the regimes right across the UK, given that that is the best way to effect the desired outcome that we all share.

Thank you.

The Convener

Do any other members wish to come in with any questions? No. On that note, I thank the minister and we will have a short pause to let the minister and his officials leave.

Our next item of business is consideration of any issues for the committee’s final report on the LCM. I will open it up to members to come in with any issues that you wish to see included.

Jamie Greene

Does the report reflect that there is clearly positive dialogue between the two Governments, which is helpful in this scenario, given the subject matter? Clearly, there is some mopping up to do, which I do not have any particular view on; it is for the Governments to decide on that. It is clear that there has been some movement already, and some amendments have been proposed by the Scottish Government, which I think is fair and due process.

Russell Findlay made an important point. It was quite a meaty report that only appeared in our papers this week, it was followed up very late in the day yesterday with the DPLR Committee report and it is complex and technical in nature. I would request that we ask the Government to give us notice of complex LCMs, as far in advance as possible, to give members time to read what turned into “War and Peace” committee papers this week. That would be helpful and it might mean that we would spend less time in session discussing it.

Thank you. Are there any other comments?

I pretty much repeat that, but I also want to understand what is expected of us today. What are our options? I am still not entirely clear.

Stephen Imrie will probably articulate that better than me, so I will hand over to him to outline the next steps.

Stephen Imrie (Clerk)

The question for the committee is really about where you stand and timing. At this stage, you are being asked whether you want to make a recommendation to Parliament on the issue of consent. Specifically, the Scottish Government has set out its views on the provisions, as they stand at this point. It is recommending consent to the provisions except in one area, in the way that the minister outlined.

This morning, you can decide whether you agree or disagree with that. Alternatively, you might decide that you are not in a position to make a recommendation at this point, given the short time that you have had to consider the matter.

Mr Burgess, though, said that he expected negotiations to be on-going and that a supplementary legislative consent memorandum would emerge at some point on those on-going negotiations. Therefore, an option might be for you to agree with the Government at this point but to await the supplementary LCM and then consider that before making final conclusions on the matters that are still outstanding.

Fulton MacGregor (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)

My question is for Stephen Imrie—sorry, Stephen, it is almost like you are part of the panel.

You said that we could agree but wait. If we do that, would that mean that we were in effect consenting to what has been put before us today—which is where I would probably want to be—or would it mean that we were consenting to it with reservations?

Stephen Imrie

To be clear, the issue of consent is a matter for Parliament as a whole rather than this committee. The issue before you is what recommendation you want to make. An option that is available to you is to agree with the Government now—that is, agree to recommend to consent to the provisions that the Scottish Government is currently happy with—and then await the outcome of the negotiations that are on-going before making your views clear on those provisions when you see the supplementary memorandum. You would be saying that you are with the Government at this point but that you are awaiting the outcomes of those negotiations before looking to see what the Government is saying about them.

I do not have information about when this will go before Parliament; that is a matter for the Parliamentary Bureau. I suspect that the Parliament will await the outcome of those on-going negotiations rather than agreeing consent up to a certain point and then having to agree again in relation to what remains, but I do not know that for sure; we would have to wait to see what the Parliamentary Bureau recommended to Parliament. I hope that that is clear.

Russell Findlay

To come back to what Stephen Imrie suggested, it could be that there is nothing to worry about—there probably is nothing to worry about—but, given the complexity and the last-minute nature of the process, it would be nice if we could follow the suggestion to agree in principle but have the option to revisit the matter once the negotiations have concluded.

The Convener

Thanks. Those comments are helpful.

I think that we are all broadly supportive of the provisions in the bill and the spirit and content of the LCM. It appears that the UK Government and the Scottish Government have been engaging regularly and have almost reached agreement on the provisions as they impact on Scotland. I agree with the comments that have been made about the tight timescales. There is a lot for us to get our heads around and understand, and I thank our witnesses for raising the issues—that is helpful in terms of what we include in our report.

I think that we are in agreement with the direction of travel and—at this moment in time—we agree that the Scottish Parliament should give its consent to the provisions in the bill as they are set out in the draft motion, but we should perhaps include reference to the fact that we understand that further amendments will be considered. Do members agree with that? Have I worded that correctly? Is that clear?

Stephen Imrie

We can circulate the text.

The Convener

Given that this is not the most straightforward LCM, I suggest that we move on with our agenda today, and circulate some more helpful wording so that we can be clear about where members are when it comes to our recommendation and next steps.

Fulton MacGregor

Before we move on, I want to put on record that, based on what I heard today from the minister, the answers to colleagues’ questions, the information in our papers and Stephen Imrie’s explanation, I would be quite happy to consent to what was asked of us today, although I am happy to follow the approach that the convener has suggested, if that will lead to a similar conclusion.

I think that we are all on the same page; I just want to be absolutely clear about what our recommendation is, so we will come back to that at a later point.