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.

AGM

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.

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BIALL workshop: European Union information, 21 March 2016. A review

SLLG member, Jane Condie of the Advocates Library successfully applied for an SLLG bursary to allow her to attend a BIALL workshop on EU information. This is Jane’s review of the course.

 

Course: BIALL Workshop – European Union Information

Trainer: Ian Thomson, Director of the European Documentation Centre, Cardiff University and Executive Editor of European Sources Online.

With the aid of a bursary from SLLG, I was able to attend a one day course at the University of the West of England – Frenchay Campus, Bristol last month. I stayed in a pleasant (but odd) guest house a few miles away from the venue – which made for an enjoyable walk to get there in the morning.

The Frenchay campus of UWE was unexpectedly large so I was fortunate to meet up with another course attendee at the gate. We navigated the way together. On arrival we were surprised by how un-library-ish the library building looked, but the presence of a large Shaun the Sheep statue reassured us we were in the right place (“…can you please meet us beside the Shaun the Sheep – Justice Baa Lamb – that is just inside the entrance to the Library…”).

Although the welcome was warm and the refreshments were yummy, I’m afraid I found this workshop somewhat disappointing. This was due, in part, to my having previously attended Ian Thomson’s course for the SLLG in 2013, but it had a good bit to do with organisational problems and an overly optimistic course timetable.

I will present my review using the course structure for headings:

Brief Introduction to the European Union
Key Institutions – Legislative Acts and Judicial decisions – How policy is made – Role of committees – Challenges

This introductory section was timetabled to last for only one hour. In practice it took up almost the entire morning. There was undoubtedly a lot of very interesting stuff here but as someone who has both attended his previous course and worked with Eur-lex for several years, I didn’t gain much new information.

Also, due to a breakdown in communication/organisation we spent more than half of the morning session without access to the detailed PowerPoint – full of links and information – the trainer had supplied. Neither he nor the organisers thought to direct us to, or even mention, the copy waiting for us on the university’s shared drive! We were just sitting in front of useless computers, listening to him talk. I don’t feel I lost out too much from this error but for those attendees new to EU law, the morning must have been an absolute blur of incomprehension.

However, I did learn about the existence of ‘Trilogues’ in the EU legislative process. About 85% of new legislative proposals have gone through this process in recent years. It speeds things up considerably but there is an issue about transparency. Although the Trilogues are not exactly secret there is no real way to obtain documents from these Trilogue sessions. The European Ombudsman is conducting a public consultation on the transparency of Trilogues. This is definitely something I’ll be keeping an eye on in future.

Searching for EU information / Guides to terminology
Search engines – EUROPA – FIND-eR – EU Bookshop – European Sources Online – Glossary – Eurojargon – IATE – Machine translation

A highlight of this section for me was probably the Search Europa site. This is basically a Google powered site, set up by the European Journalism Centre, to search the whole EUROPA portal. Ian thinks it’s better than Europa’s own search engine.

He also mentioned a number of archives which have digitised the kind of really old documents that are currently not available via Europa. He mentioned an American site – Archive of European Integration (AEI) – in particular.

Legislative and judicial information sources
EUR-LEX – Summaries of EU Legislation – Procedures (formerly PreLex) / Legislative Observatory – National Implementing Measures (NIMs) – Official Journal – COM Documents – Case law – Legal citations

There wasn’t much new information here sadly. I did however learn something interesting about the Commission’s new policy to improve the drafting of EU legislation: Consolidation, Codification and Recasting.

Consolidation has been used for a while in an attempt to simplify much amended legislation. Consolidated legislation is useful but not authoritative.

Codification brings together one or more Consolidated acts into one. The new piece of legislation passes through the full legislative process and replaces the older act(s).

Recasting is similar to Codification, in that it brings together one or more Consolidated acts, passes through the full legislative process and replaces the older acts. However, Recasting will also include substantive changes and amendments to the existing legislation. Ian Thomson says that this will be the preferred method in future.

Policy monitoring
Key documents to follow the activities of the European Commission, Council of the European Union, European Council, EU Presidency, European Parliament – European External Action Service – Registers of documents

According to my notes we seem to have pretty much skipped this section due to lack of time. Instead we engaged in a fairly lengthy ‘practical’ session which I didn’t find useful at all.

Role of an EU member State in the creation, adoption and implementation of EU law (using the UK as a case study)
Government – Government Departments – Parliament – MEPs – European Commissioners – Economic and Social Committee (etc)

This was the section I was most interested in, due to some recent enquiries I’ve had. I had been hoping for some insight into the location of implementation documentation but it wasn’t much more than a disappointingly vague overview of the process.

Keeping-up-to-date
EU sources: EU Press Room – RAPID – EU Calendar – TV and web-streaming
Non-EU sources: EUObserver – EurActiv – Politico – Europe Media Monitor – Newspapers – Radio and TV – ESO – Blogs – Social media

Nothing noteworthy mentioned here.

~~~~~

I’m sorry if this report seems unduly harsh but I really was hoping for more from this workshop. However, in a spirit of optimism and positivity, I will finish by listing three things I did get from the day.

I learned about:

  1. The existence of ‘Trilogues’ in the EU legislative process.
  2. Digital archives of old EU documents.
  3. Consolidation, Codification and Recasting.

Thanks for the bursary SLLG!

Justicelordshaun

Justice Baa Lamb – lives in the UWE Frenchay library now

 

Thanks for the review of this course, Jane. If any member would like to apply for a bursary as Jane did, to allow you to attend training, please see details in the members’ only section of the group webpages or talk to a member of the committee. 

SLLG Speed Networking meeting: 3 February, 2016

Wednesday 3 February saw Group members gather for what will be the last mass discussion group for a while.  The event was very well received, so thank you for the positive feedback, and for coming along.

For those who couldn’t make it, here is a summary of the outcome.

  1. Innovation in our information services.

There was a general sense across all discussion groups that innovations don’t need to be big, and in fact many of us just experience them as small process changes.

It was felt that innovation is innate in our culture as we are always seeking to improve and do things differently. Sometimes things have to be done in a certain way, but it is always worth questioning why and if they can be done in a better way, which leads to a slow evolution, rather than something as dramatic as innovation.

It is important to be open to change, be proactive and take on new duties, get involved in new strategies, or embrace new technologies, but it was sometimes difficult to get the support of other people such as IT departments.

It was also a case of adapting in reaction to external changes eg the cessation of print sources and move to born digital sources. Or it could be the incorporation of new technologies into working practices eg use of social media for communication and RRS feeds into intranet systems, or the use of new services/providers such as statistic-collecting service ZoHo creative or a will search service.

Some members are involved in revamping existing services such as wiki site restructuring and migrating data into new systems.

For members of staff in institutional libraries, it was felt that there was little opportunity for large-scale innovation.  It tended to be along the lines of keeping up with trends eg installing new technology.

For commercial firms there is a pressure for information services to be innovative in order to be visible and relevant.  The ideas seem to come from other firms and so it is again a case of copying the trends in order to stay competitive eg sector awareness, horizon scanning etc, but every firm will be inventive in the way it goes about implementing these innovations.

Some libraries have been innovative with their building and one member recently had their library used as concert space and with the event advertised on twitter.

  1. Top tips for a successful service induction.
  • Preparation.
  • Sending an initial letter/email about your services but avoiding overloading it with information.
  • Frequently reviewing and tailoring sessions to individuals and to keep them up to date eg new trainees don’t know how to use books anymore!
  • Sending a follow-up email after induction.
  • One-to-ones are better than groups.
  • Keeping it short.
  • Being generally approachable, accessible after the session etc.
  • Tempting membership/uptake/interaction with offer of lunch or something fun such as a quiz.
  • In person is better as connection problems etc through Webex etc.
  1. Current awareness/horizon scanning services

Updates are usually time-consuming to produce and it was felt that is important to know that people are reading them so we can gauge how useful they are. Some members have taken the approach of ceasing producing them without complaints being received.  Others have found that theirs are surprisingly widely read and so well received.

It was felt it was important to keep them as easy to read as possible in this day and age of too much information so people can see at a quick glance if there’s anything relevant to them.

Sector awareness and horizon scanning were the big thing in commercial law firms, with information services being expected to have access to industry, rather than legal, information, and to monitor industry and regulatory changes which are only distant possibilities which is valued by clients and marketing departments. It can be difficult to source accurate information and find out much detail in some cases, and in others it is hard to managed the flood of information such as from parliaments.

Members recommended products such as Nexis’s Newsdesk, and Linex which monitors sources including RSS feeds and press releases. It covers sectors, companies and business areas.  Email lists, seminars, contacts and social events were felt to be useful sources for future awareness.

One librarian had found it useful to monitor upcoming legal changes in order to plan for the impact of related new books on the budget for budget planning purposes, but this was countered by the usual problems of publication schedule changes.  We all monitored Wildy’s, Avizandum and Green’s lists to try to keep up to date in this area.

What we’re starting to find hard to keep up to date with is the cessation of print resources in favour of electronic only.  Lexis recently issued a new edition on Lexis library only – consequently it doesn’t have an ISBN, and shops didn’t seem to have been notified and still had the old edition for sale as if it was the latest edition.  The publishers don’t seem to be good at communicating these changes to its customers either, eg Lexis is changing 10 looseleaf titles to be electronic only.

  1. Professional Achievements

Most of us were pleased to have got a job, kept their job, or simply turned up to work in 2015!

Some were more ambitious and had increased their working hours, integrated two library collections or chaired the BIALL website Committee.

Others put these achievements to shame by winning a mooting competition or BIALL Supplier of the Year!

One member has embarked on their chartership after being inspired by the article “Closing the gap: the five essential attributes of the modern information professional”.  If you have a Westlaw subscription you can read it here: L.I.M. 2014, 14(4), 258-265.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 www.parliament.uk)

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.