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Autumn statement and the Justice Select Committee annual report

21 November 2016

Alexandra Cardenas looks at the  Autumn statement and Justice Select Committee's annual report.


Next week, parliament will be focusing on the Autumn statement as chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond MP, will put his own stamp on the role in his first budgetary announcement. On Wednesday the Public Affairs Team will provide a summary of the key policy announcements.

In relation to justice, the lord chief justice will go in front of the Justice Select Committee on Tuesday to discuss his 2016 annual report and the minister for courts and legal aid will be in front of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to discuss the implications of Brexit on human rights.

Law Society representatives will be in front of two committees next week with Elizabeth Wall, Law Society's chair of the Company Law Committee giving evidence on corporate governance to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee.

Director of public affairs, Robert Khan will also be giving evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee on the legislative process.

Last week, the Ministry of Justice announced plans to make significant changes to personal injury. Specifically they plan to introduce a tariff system of compensation payments, raise the small claims limit for all personal injury claims from £1,000 to £5,000 and ban offers to settle claims without medical evidence.

On Tuesday Amy Bell, chair of the Law Society's Money Laundering Task Force and Head of Compliance and Training at QualitySolicitors, gave evidence to the Criminal Finances Public Bill Committee in the House of Commons.

This week in Parliament

Tuesday 22 November

House of Commons

  • Criminal Finances Bill - Public Bill Committee
  • Justice Select Committee - lord chief justice annual report 2016
    Witness:
    • Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, lord chief justice

House of Lords

  • Debate - Lords European Union Select Committee report: 'The Invoking of article 50' - Lord Lang of Monkton

Wednesday 23 November

House of Commons

  • Autumn statement - Philip Hammond MP
  • Homelessness Reduction Bill - Public Bill Committee
  • Exiting the EU Select Committee - the UK's negotiating objectives for its withdrawal from the EU Witnesses:
    • Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, lord chief justice
    • Stephen Booth, acting director and director of policy and research, Open Europe
    • Shankar Singham, director of economic policy and prosperity studies, The Legatum Institute
  • Business Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee - Corporate Governance.
    Witnesses include:
    • City of London Law Society (and chair of the Law Society Company Law Committee)
  • Joint Committee on Human Rights evidence session on 'what are the human rights implications of Brexit' with Oliver Heald QC MP, minister of state for courts and justice

House of Lords

  • Wales Bill - committee stage
  • Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Bill - report stage
  • Constitution Committee - legislative process
    Witnesses:
    • Michael Clancy OBE, director of Law Reform, Law Society of Scotland
    • Robert Khan, director of Public Affairs Law Society of England and Wales
    • Andrew Walker QC, vice chairman-elect of the Bar Council and the vice chairman of the Bar Council Law Reform Committee

Thursday 24 November

House of Commons

  • Criminal Finances Bill - house of commons Public Bill Committee

House of Lords

  • Debate - limiting the number and nature of claims against the ministry of defence and UK armed services personnel arising out of future armed conflict abroad - Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood

Monday 14 November

Parliament

House of Commons

Explanatory memorandum on government's intention to opt in to the revised Europol framework

Policing Minister Brandon Lewis MP (Con) notified parliament that the government intends to opt-in to Regulation (eu) 2016/794 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Union agency for law enforcement cooperation (Europol), in line with its right to do so under protocol 21 to the EU Treaties.

Lewis said that while the UK is leaving the EU, the 'reality of cross-border crime remains'. He added that Europol is a valuable service and that the UK wanted to maintain access to the agency, until we leave the EU.

The decision will now be subject to parliamentary scrutiny by the House of Commons and House of Lords EU Scrutiny Committee, after which the UK government will notify the European Commission.

Tuesday 15 November

Parliament

House of Commons

Criminal Finances Bill - Committee stage

Amy Bell, chair of the Law Society's Money Laundering Task Force and Head of Compliance and Training at QualitySolicitors, gave evidence to the Criminal Finances Public Bill Committee in parliament. The other witnesses were Anthony Browne, chief executive of the British Bankers Association (BBA), and Nausicaa Delfas, director of specialist supervision at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The witnesses were asked a number of questions about the current draft of the bill, and how effective it would be in assisting law enforcement and regulated professionals in tackling financial crimes such as tax evasion and money laundering.

Amy highlighted that the Law Society provides a range of training and resources to solicitors, especially smaller firms, to help them carry out their obligations as regulated professionals. The SRA's recent thematic review concluded that this has been an effective support for solicitors.

She also clarified that although the Law Society is the named body for regulation of solicitors in this area, enforcement responsibility is delegated to the SRA, whilst the Society maintains the training and support elements.

When asked about concerns raised by a representative from the National Crime Agency (NCA) in a previous session about the number and quality of suspicious activity reports (SARs) submitted by solicitors, Amy clarified that it is accepted by the Financial Action Task Force and was accepted by all of the NCA's predecessors that there is no 'right' number of reports.

Defence Sub-Committee - Ministry of Defence support for former and serving personnel subject to judicial processes

The Defence Sub-Committee heard evidence from senior staff in the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT). The committee asked about the number of cases from Public Interest Lawyers (2470) and from Leigh Day (718 cases). The committee suggested that this was something of an industry for those two firms, and asked if this was problematic in light of the subsequent accusations against PIL.

The committee asked about whether the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) proceedings had changed the treatment of cases referred to IHAT by Public Interest Lawyers. The witnesses pointed out that the attorney general has made clear this cannot be done, as these are still criminal accusations against soldiers the veracity of which must be established by the independent investigator, IHAT.

The witnesses said that if the SDT concludes that there has been falsification of evidence this may change the treatment of some PIL evidence in future.

The committee asked whether, without IHAT, the witnesses thought that the International Criminal Court would be pursuing the soldiers concerned. The witnesses said that under statute they would be required to, given the severity of some of the complaints.

House of Lords

EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee - Security Union

Sir Julian King, commissioner for the Security Union, European Commission, gave evidence to the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee. The session focused on the relationship of European agenices with non-EU member states.

King said that Europol has a strong relationship with countries including the US, especially on terrorist financing. He said that Europol is complementary to national systems, but separate, as the work of Europol is not the core work of national intelligence agencies.

He noted two forms of co-operation with non-EU member states:

  • He said that some, such as Turkey and Russia, have strategic arrangements whereby they have discussions with Europol but do not share data or work closely on law enforcement.
  • Others such as the US and Norway have operational agreements, which include close liaison and provide a framework for sharing personal data, allowing detailed practical law enforcement cooperation.

He noted after the new regulation on Europol coming into place next year, any third country seeking an operational agreement including personal data exchange will need either a grandfathered agreement, Commission certification of data protection equivalence, and/or a negotiated agreement from Europol, which would require a vote in the European Parliament via qualified majority voting.

On access to Schengen databases, King said that there are some non-EU Schengen member states that have links to the Schengen databases, and added that it will be up to member states to decide how to share information in the future.

Lords Oral Question - Judicial independence

Lord Lexden (Con) asked the advocate general for Scotland what steps the lord chancellor is taking to fulful her duty to uphold the independence of the judiciary. Advocate general for Scotland noted that the lord chancellor has fulfilled this duty with a clear and timely statement, and will continue to do so. He noted her commitment to the independent judiciary as the cornerstone of the rule of law.

Wednesday 16 November

Parliament

Nothing to report.

Thursday 17 November

Government

Consultation on changes to personal injury law

The Ministry of Justice launched the consultation on proposals which will reduce the number of whiplash claims. The full consultation and impact assessment can be found here.

The consultation paper outlines plans to scrap the right to compensation or put a cap on the amount people can claim for minor whiplash injuries. Capping compensation would see the average pay-out cut from £1,850 to a maximum amount of £425. Compensation would only be paid out if a medical report was provided as proof of injury. Other measures include:

  • Introducing a transparent tariff system of compensation payments for claims with more significant injuries
  • Raising the limit for cases in the small claims court for all personal injury claims from £1,000 to £5,000
  • Banning offers to settle claims without medical evidence. All claims would need a report from a MedCo accredited medical expert before any pay out.

Our press statement can be found here.

Friday 18 November

Nothing to report.

Question or comments? Contact the Public Affairs team at parliamentary@lawsociety.org.uk or 020 7320 5858.

Tags: justice | Parliament | courts | criminal legal aid | Autumn Statement | Budget

About the author

Alexandra Cardenas is Head of Public Affairs and Campaigns at the Law Society. Public Affairs manages the relationships with parliament and government. She is a dual qualified solicitor in England and Wales (2014), and Colombia (2002). Prior to the Society, she practised as a human rights lawyer and worked at Macmillan Cancer Support and Animal Defenders International.

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