AGM and speaker: 12 May 2016

An excellent membership attendance enjoyed an afternoon of SLLG business, learning about the legislative processes of the UK Parliament and homemade cakes from our own top baking Secretary at our 2016 AGM.

Many members complimented the choice of venue this year, which was the Quaker meeting house in Edinburgh. The venue was centrally located in Edinburgh, of good size, amply equipped and accommodating to our needs.


Convenor Debra welcomed everyone as she opened the group business part of the afternoon.

Debra presented her convenor’s report for 2015, listing the activities and work undertaken. Debra took the opportunity to officially minute her appreciation to all who helped: those who kindly gave up time, volunteered venue spaces and generously gifted sponsorships.

Debra added her own wish, too, that all members will be encouraged in themselves to be active in the SLLG. From taking a lead role in a discussion or arranging a tour, through to writing for our blog or simply attending the events the SLLG put on, the message was aspirational for members to use the SLLG: get involved, continue to develop professionally and support one another.

If a member would like to do something for other SLLG members, please feel free to talk to the committee. All sorts of support and advice can be provided.

Kelly gave a run-through of the presented group accounts, which were accepted without query, before Debra announced some committee changes for 2016.

Kelly, committee member for 4 years and Treasurer for the requisite 3, has stepped down from the committee.

Lissie, committee member for 1 year, has stepped down from the committee as she pursues a career in law with our best wishes for her success.

Debra, herself, demits the office of Convenor, only to immediately take up office as Treasurer.

Alison, as the committee nomination to take office as Convenor in 2016, was heartily ratified by the membership in the hall.

The committee is also pleased to have a new committee member. Rona from Pinsent Masons was welcomed onto the committee.

This leaves 2 seats vacant on the committee. The committee cannot run as strong a group itinerary when not at full strength. Anyone interested in taking up one of the seats should get in touch with a current committee member.

With no further business from the committee to discuss or offered from the hall, Debra closed the business meeting as her final act of her convenorship.

All office reports and 2016 AGM business papers remain accessible by members through the group website (under Member Papers).

‘UK Parliament and the Law’ – Gary Hart, Senior Community Outreach and Engagement Officer, House of Parliament.

Gary’s talk on legislative procedure at Westminster was very informative; even those of us who thought they knew enough about legislation learned a fair bit more, and had questions to ask.

Gary kicked off with a couple of interesting facts:

  • The House of Lords is the second biggest legislature in the world.
  • Most legislation spends most of its time in the House of Lords as the Lords don’t have constitutional responsibilities and can therefore dedicate more time to it.

And below are some of the key points of his talk.

As well as bills introduced by the ruling government, any MP can introduce a private member’s bill.  This can be through a ballot at the start of the parliamentary session which permits 20 names to be picked out and given parliamentary debating time for their bill.  Or there is also the 10 minute rule which allows members to suggest a bill and talk about it for 10 minutes to try to gain support for it to be put forward.  however, most MPs use this merely as a platform for raising awareness rather than having a realistic expectation of their bill progressing.

Bills may start in either House.

A bill’s first reading is simply that, it’s only at the second reading stage that MPs get to discuss the bill and vote on whether it should proceed.  The second reading process is slightly different in the House of Lords in that any peers wishing to speak about the bill must register on the list of speakers first.

Bill Committees are proportionate in party make-up to that of the House of  Commons.  The Committee stage in each House differs slightly.  In the Commons it is held in a separate room, but in the Lords it is held in the main chamber.  Time limits apply to this stage in the House of Commons – they set ‘internal knives’ and when they are out of time they say ‘the knife has fallen’.  The House of Lords Committee stage doesn’t need time limits.  In the Commons, a regular MP acts as the Committee speaker.

At the third reading in the House of Commons, there can be no amendments to the text of the bill, but this is again not the case in the House of Lords.  If the House of Lords amends a Bill after the House of Commons Third reading it must go back to the House of Commons for approval.  Sometimes bills pass back and forth in this way, and this stage is known by the highly technical term “ping-pong”.  If the House of Lords refuses to agree, the bill ceases to progress for a period of one year.  It then gets re-introduced a year later for passing undebated and unopposed.

A bill isn’t classed as “passed” until it receives Royal Assent.  Provisions coming into force upon Royal Assent are usually midnight at the start of the day of Royal Assent.

Some Bills have special procedures eg the Finance Bill can only be amended in the House of Commons.

For Statutory Instruments, there are three committees which can scrutinise it and report to the Houses if necessary.  They are passed by affirmative or negative resolution in Parliament.  Some people complain about the lack of democracy in the passing of so much legislation in this way, but there simply isn’t the time or facility to do it any other way as there is so much of it.

Select committees are playing an increasingly important part in legislation.  Members are chosen by all fellow members of the House (it used to be the party whips who selected the members and therefore they weren’t seen as independent/transparent).

Lastly, we looked at the process for EVEL legislation (English votes for English laws).  Before a bill starts the Committee stage, the House of Commons Speaker decides if it applies to England, or England and Wales only, and gives it a certificate if so.  The Committee will then contain only MPs from the relevant constituencies.  There are then three extra stages that a bill can go through after Report stage – Legislative Grand Committee, Reconsideration and Consequential Consideration. Whether a bill needs to go through all these stages depends on decisions made during its progress.  If the Lords make an amendment, it goes to a vote and  a majority of all MPs, then a majority of all English and/or English and Welsh MPs must agree to it which is known as a ‘double majority’ division.

Scots law sources continuing to increase on BAILLI

SLLG member, Anthony, informs us of the progress being made with the continuing BAILLI/SCLR project to increase access to much of the historic Scottish law reports.

SLLG members will be interested to learn that BAILII have been making good progress in loading the data supplied by the Scottish Council of Law Reporting. They have been working hard to expand on it and to increase its utility.

Thus Scottish Appeal Cases and the Jury Court Cases have been added in the past few weeks. There are three volumes of Scottish appeal Cases still to be added.

Details may be found at

BAILII’s database of historic Scottish Law Reports as of now is chiefly made up of:

  • Morison’s Dictionary of Decisions (Court of Session) 1540-1808

In addition to these reports the database also includes:

  • Decisions of the Court of Session:
      • Brown’s Supplement (A Supplement to the Dictionary of Decisions of the Court of Session)1622 to 1780
      • Elchies’ Decisions and notes 1733-54 (which augments and sometimes duplicates) Morison’s Dictionary
      • Hailes’ Decisions of the Lords of Council and Session 1766 to 1791

    Decisions of the House of Lords (Scotland):

      • Robertson’s Reports (Robertson) 1709 – 1727
      • Paton’s Scotch Appeals, House of Lords (Paton) Vols 1 – 6 : 1726 – 1821#
      • Dow’s House of Lords Cases (Dow) Vols 1 – 6 : 1812 – 1818
      • Bligh’s House of Lords Reports (Bligh) Vols 1 – 4 : 1819 – 1821
      • Shaw’s Scotch Appeal Cases (Shaw) Vols 1-2 : 1821 – 1824
      • Wilson & Shaw’s Appeal Cases, House of Lords (WS) Vols 1 – 7 : 1825 – 1835
      • Shaw & Maclean’s Scotch Appeal Cases (SM )Vols 1 -3 : 1835 – 1838
      • Maclean & Robinson’s Appeal Cases (MacRob) Vol 1 : 1839
      • Robinson’s Scotch Appeal Cases (Rob) Vols 1-2 : 1840 – 1841
      • Bell’s House of Lords Appeal Cases (Bell) Vols 1 – 7 : 1842 – 1850
      • Macqueen’s Scotch Appeal Cases (Macqueen) Vols 1 – 3 : 1851 – 1861

    Jury Court Cases:

      • Murray’s Jury Court Cases (Murray) Vols 1 – 5 : 1815 – 1830

Morison collected most of the Scottish Court of Session law reports from 1540-1808 and organised them by subject matter. The Notes section from Tait’s Index to Morison’s Dictionary informs us that these reports were gathered from all sorts of early sources. These Notes also provide further information about Morison’s Dictionary, Brown’s Supplement and the Elchies and Hailes collections of reports. BAILII is slowly incorporating the corrections to Morison’s Dictionary found in Tait’s Index into this database (most of these corrections deal with report dates). Although Morison assigned two levels of subjects to each report, there was never a compiled subject index to the whole work.

BAILII is proud of being able to generate a Subject Index to the Decisions of the Court of Session 1540 – 1808 which is currently a work in progress.

We really appreciate the updates Anthony gives the SLLG on the valuable ongoing work to make these often difficult to locate materials accessible. 

Morison’s Dictionary and other historic Scottish case reports now widely available

The Secretary of the Scottish Council of Law Reporting (SCLR) contacted the SLLG Blog with the following:
Readers of the SLLG blog may be interested to learn of the continuing work by the Scottish Council of Law Reporting to make important historic (but cited) Scottish law reports available as widely as possible.

As a result, BAILII has now loaded the reports gathered in Morison’s Dictionary (together with Brown’s Supplement) plus Hailes and Elchies law reports. These are accessible on open access through their site.

The Council has also completed the data capture (both in PDF and xml) of the Scottish Appeal Cases (mostly civil appeals to the House of Lords from 1707 to 1873) and Jury Court Reports (1815-1830). BAILII are planning to load this material over the next few months. Some of these reports are extremely rare in hard copy.

In pursuit of its objective of improving access to these materials, the SCLR has also offered the data, free of charge, to the commercial legal information vendors. Westlaw are the first to have uploaded the Morison etc. cases in their entirety and these reports are now available to Westlaw subscribers. William S Hein have also included some additional Morison material and it is hoped that Justis will include these reports in their service soon.

The SCLR is open to further suggestions from SLLG members as to historic Scottish case law that might be captured usefully. Please contact Anthony Kinahan as secretary(at)sclr(dot)scot or via the contact form on the SCLR website.

Pepper v Hart training course – 26 March 2015

parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of Parliament

parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of Parliament

The SLLG Committee were only too happy to help with a group bursary when Morag asked about one to attend the BIALL training on ‘Pepper v Hart’ research, in March. Equally delightful is Morag clearly got so much good from the course. Morag shares some of the key learning points.

What is “Pepper v Hart” research?

This is research of parliamentary materials and the background to legislation most commonly used where there is a problem of statutory interpretation. It originates from the case of Pepper (Inspector of Taxes) v Hart [1993] AC 593 . Mr Hart a teacher at Malvern College benefited from a “concessionary fee” scheme that allowed his son to be educated at the college for one fifth of the normal fees of a pupil. The Inland Revenue attempted to tax this benefit based on the Finance Act 1976 and there was a dispute over the correct interpretation of the Act. Lord Browne-Wilkinson (one of the Law Lords who heard the case) looked at the Hansard debates in order to help with construction. This subsequently established the principle that when primary legislation is ambiguous then, in certain circumstances, the court may refer to statements made in the House of Commons or House of Lords in an attempt to interpret the meaning of the legislation.

Why did I want to do this training?

Working in the Readers Services Department of the Advocates Library, my colleagues and I are often asked by Advocates to obtain the Parliamentary Debates for legislation in order to assist with their research into the background of certain provisions. I find this a very interesting part of my work and I have always wanted to understand how to do this better.

When BIALL offered a training course at Lincoln’s Inn Library on 26 March 2015 on “Parliamentary Debates on Legislation: How to do Pepper v Hart Research” I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to increase my knowledge and improve my skills. The SLLG kindly granted me a bursary for the cost of the training.

Course content and guidelines for “Pepper v Hart” research

The course was organised by Guy Holborn, the Librarian at Lincoln’s Inn and the number of attendees was limited to 16 places. It was an all-day course comprising of both lectures and workshops. The main points emphasised for conducting the research properly were as follows:

a) Knowledge of the parliamentary stages of a bill is essential

It is important to understand the basic pattern of the parliamentary stages of a bill as this helps to identify where the most relevant debates and amendments are likely to be found during the passage of the bill. Bills can start in either the House of Commons or the Lords. The first reading and introduction of the bill are purely formal and can largely be ignored. The second reading is likely to contain debate on the principle of the bill and the mischief aimed at, but the longest and most detailed stage (and therefore the most important) is the Committee stage. This is also where the bill is debated clause by clause and therefore is the stage most likely to be of relevance to a researcher looking to understand what a particular section might mean.

b) Use hard copy debates in preference to online

During the training exercises we used hard copy debates. This method is considered preferable to online research which can be dangerously incomplete for certain parliamentary periods and is not so easily managed on screen.

c) Check that you are you looking for debates on the right Act

The section or part of a section of interest might have been inserted by a later Act (and not the Act initially in question). The Act may also be a consolidation Act and if so, you will need to trace the derivation of the section in the previous Act and find the debates on that Act. If the Act was passed between 1984 and 2010 it is useful to consult the House of Commons Sessional Information Digest (available online from 1995/6. From 2006/07 see also the table of Bills before Parliament on

d) Find all the prints of the bill for both Commons and Lords

There will usually be 2 complete prints of the bill for the Commons and 3 for the Lords. Bill numbers are given in the Sessional Information Digest. It is also useful to have the hard copy of Act as originally enacted in order to see the position of the section in the scheme of Act. You should note whether the clause is present and in an identical form to the section of the Act throughout and if not, at what stage was it inserted or reached its final form. Note the number of the clause at each stage.

e) Find Hansard references for each stage

These can be found in a variety of sources including:
• Sessional indexes (there is a separate index volume for the House of Commons but for the House of Lords the index is contained within the last volume of the session)
• House of Commons Sessional Information Digest
• Explanatory Notes to Act (from 1999-)
• Halsbury’s Statutes (from 1993 onwards)
• Current Law Statutes (but these are not always complete!)
Bills section from 2006/7 onwards

f) Find the debates on your clause at each stage

There are 8 stages where there might be debate (but if after looking at the bills you identified a stage when the bill was significantly altered you might want to start there):
• Commons – 2nd reading
• Commons – Committee
• Commons- Report & 3rd reading
• Lords – 2nd reading
• Lord Committee
• Lords Report
• Lords -3rd reading
• Commons – Lords Amendments

g) If you find absolutely nothing relevant in the debates!

If after following the steps above you find absolutely nothing at least you can rest assured that you have researched this exhaustively and no vital discussion has been missed out. Naturally there are sometimes exceptions to the general outline provided above but these are the basic main points which I took from the training which may be of help to others undertaking this type of research.

Summary of course experience

I can thoroughly recommend this course for anyone interested in deepening their knowledge of parliamentary research. The printed lecture notes provided are extremely detailed and will be very useful in the future for doing Pepper v Hart research. The four practical workshops led by the Library staff at Lincoln’s Inn provided “hands on” experience of looking at the bills and debates with the opportunity to ask questions and take notes. I think the highlight of the day however was lunch in the Great Hall at Lincoln’s Inn (pictured below) which is a lot more impressive than our staff room at the Advocates Library and the food was better too.

Thank you, Morag, for a very informative blog. Group members are reminded that bursaries are available for all sorts of professional development and are directed to the bursary document for more information.