The Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee has recommended that the general principles of the Prescription (Scotland) Bill be agreed to when it reaches its Stage 1 debate in Parliament later this month.
While the committee welcomes the greater clarity the Bill provides for users of the law, MSPs have called on the Scottish Government to provide “further rationale” for excepting council tax and business rates from the five year statutory period on pursuing outstanding obligations in court.
The Committee did not reach agreement as to whether the proposed 20 year limit on council tax and business rates was appropriate, and have asked the Government to respond ahead of Stage 2.
In advance of Stage 2, the Committee will write to all 32 local authorities to ask how many council tax and business rates debts are still outstanding after five years and how many times local authorities have had to make use of the 20 year prescription period to seek payment of such debts.
DPLR Committee Convener Graham Simpson MSP said:
“Our Committee notes that most stakeholders are generally content that the Bill is a welcome reform to the law relating to negative prescription. We welcome the greater certainty the Bill will bring for users of the law.
“We recognise that the Bill aims to achieve an overall balance between the rights and obligations of creditors and debtors, and we gave that balance very careful consideration.”
The Convener added:
“Our Stage 1 scrutiny process has reached a different audience to that of the Scottish Law Commission and Scottish Government consultations, particularly in relation to the welfare rights sector. Our report explores the welfare dimension in some detail, including recovery of council tax debts.
“Our Committee recommends that the Scottish Law Commission review its consultation processes with a view to giving policy considerations a greater level of attention when deliberating on law reforms.”
The Stage 1 report on the Prescription (Scotland) Bill.
The Bill implements the legislative recommendations contained in the Scottish Law Commission’s Report on Prescription published in July 2017.