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Brexit secretary commits to publishing plan in New Year

19 December 2016

Alexandra Cardenas looks at ongoing Brexit discussions in her latest report.


In the last few days before Christmas recess, the House of Commons will be considering leasehold and commonhold reform and the Justice Select Committee will be hearing more on the impacts of Brexit for the justice system. The House rises on Tuesday evening.

Ahead of the House of Lords rising on Wednesday evening, it will consider a number of issues relating to Brexit - most notably the impact of the acceptance of World Trade Organisation standard rules on the UK's negotiations for leaving the EU and the exact date in 2017 when article 50 will be invoked.

Both Houses will return from recess on Monday 9 January 2017.

This week in Parliament

Monday 19 December

House of Lords

  • Oral question on the impact of the acceptance of World Trade Organisation standard rules on the UK's negotiations for leaving the EU.
  • Debate on announcing the exact date in 2017 when article 50 will be invoked.
  • Policing and Crime Bill, 3rd Reading.

Tuesday 20 December

House of Commons

  • Debate on leasehold and commonhold reform.
  • Legal Services Act 2007 (Claims Management Complaints) (Fees) (Amendment) Regulations 2017.
  • Justice Select Committee - oral evidence session: implications of Brexit for the justice system (Linklaters, Herbert Smith and TheCityUK are giving evidence).
  • Liaison Committee: oral evidence from the prime minister.

House of Lords

  • Legal Services Act 2007 (Claims Management Complaints) (Fees) (Amendment) Regulations 2017.
  • EU Committee oral evidence session - Brexit, Crown Dependencies.

Wednesday 21 December

House of Lords

  • Oral question on the number of people who will be homeless or living in temporary accommodation over Christmas.
  • Constitution Committee oral evidence on the legislative process.
  •  

Monday 12 December

Parliament

House of Commons

Adjournment debate on EU data protection rules

The EU's new data protection regime would come into direct force in UK law on 25 May 2018, MPs heard on 12 Dec.

Key points include:

  • Responding to a debate on EU data protection rules, Digital and Culture minister Matthew Hancock said that the government had been clear about its intention to ensure that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) would apply in the UK from May 2018.
  • He stated, 'It is right to update our data protection regime not only because we will still be in the EU [at that point], but because it is time to update it, given the enormous changes that have taken place.'
  • He noted the UK's contributions to the negotiation of the new rules, which included a more risk-based approach, and greater flexibility of application. He added that the UK had successfully removed some of the 'red tape and bureaucracy' involved, and had permitted greater discretion for the Information Commissioner, he recounted.
  • He also said that the new regime would strengthen rights and offer more control over one's data, with important new safeguards for breaches, including a fine-regime based on percentages of business turnover.
  • He confirmed that the government was working on its implementation of the new rules, and any new legislation would be announced 'in the normal way', and would contain the requisite measures to adjust other affected laws. He also urged businesses to ensure they were ready for the GDPR regime, and pointed to support from the Information Commissioner, as well as an upcoming government consultation.

House of Lords

Oral questions on the impact of exiting the EU on consumer law

The Law Society briefed Baroness Hayter (Lab) ahead of the oral questions on the impact exiting the EU could have on consumer law, particularly focusing on the impact of Rome I and Brussels I. Baroness Hayter asked the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy what steps it was taking to reduce the risk of a loss of consumer redress:

  • for goods made abroad
  • victims of accidents in another member state being able to use our courts to pursue insurance claims (in reference to Brussels I)
  • air passengers getting compensation for delays and cancellations
  • and the many others we have because the UK is part of a consumer alert system for faulty or dangerous goods.

In response minister of State for Energy and Intellectual Property, Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con) said that the government will want to ensure that 'cross-border enforcement is effective, and that our ADR landscape is preserved.' Within the debate the minister also noted that the government will be bringing forward a Green Paper in the spring that will closely examine markets which are not working fairly for consumers.

Tuesday 13 December

Parliament

House of Commons

Question on HM Armed Forces and legal claims

During Defence Oral Questions, Andrew Bingham MP (Con) asked the minister for the Armed Forces (Mike Penning) what progress his department has made on protecting HM Armed Forces personnel from persistent legal claims.

Responding, Mike Penning said that the government announced their intention to derogate from the relevant articles of the European convention on human rights in future conflicts where appropriate, and added that Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched a consultation on enhanced compensation for soldiers injured or killed in combat, so that members of the armed forces and their families do not have to spend years waiting to pursue claims against the MoD.

Andrew Bingham followed up with a question about Phil Shiner (Public Interest Lawyers), asking whether the minister believed that had his legal aid contract not been suspended he would still be 'hounding our troops.'

Mike Penning said he believed he would, and was pleased that the MoD and Legal Aid Agency (LAA) had referred matters to the SRA. He repeated calls for Shiner to 'apologise to our former servicemen.'

David Davis gives evidence to the Exiting the EU Select Committee.

Secretary of state for the Department for Exiting the European Union David Davis MP gave evidence to the Exiting the European Union Committee for the first time, as part of its inquiry on the UK's negotiating objectives for its withdrawal from the EU.

Key points were:

  • Davis confirmed that the government will publish its plan once the policy work has been completed, which will not be until after January. He would not be drawn into outlining what format the plan will be presented in but noted that parliament will have the opportunity to debate it.
  • He noted that transitional arrangements mean different things to different people but that he is not opposed to an 'implementation phase' and wishes to get all the preparatory work done to ensure that there is no cliff edge issue.
  • Davis said he cannot commit that the DExEU Committee will have pre-legislative scrutiny of the Great Repeal Bill as there is a timetabling issue if it comes in the next Queen's Speech. He indicated that it will be a simple continuity bill which will bring forward further primary and secondary legislation.
  • He noted that one of the benefits of article 50 if it is not revocable is that it sets the path forward without a distraction from having EU members expecting Britain to change its mind. However, he conceded that he does not know if article 50 is revocable and said contingency planning will be happening 'for all likely outcomes.'
  • Davis said there are 330 members of the DExEU team, which has grown from 40 since the department was created in July. He noted there are 120 at UKREP, which is a collection of Whitehall experts. Davis said he did not know what the final staffing numbers will be but DExEU is receiving large amounts of applications and that the staff are very well qualified. He said HMT accepted the department's budget in full but noted it will only last for about two and a half years.
  • On questions he was unwilling to answer, Davis remained extremely tight-lipped, repeatedly noting that 'all options remain open until they're closed.'

House of Lords

Nothing to report.

Wednesday 7 December

Parliament

House of Commons

Written question on Exceptional Case Funding

Richard Burden MP (Lab) asked a question about Exceptional Case Funding Scheme (ECF) in 2013-14 and 2015-16. More specifically, he asked how many children under 18 and young people aged 18 to 24 were granted legal funding under the Exceptional Case Funding Scheme.

Court and Justice minister Sir Oliver Heald MP stated that the government believed that ECF was functioning and that every application is carefully considered by the Legal Aid Agency on an individual basis.

The number of granted applications for Exceptional Case Funding by age of applicant and financial year of application shown in the table below.

Year Under 18 18-24 Unknown
2013-14 1 4 Unknown
2015-16 14 68 27

He noted that figures for the above 2 years are not comparable because client date of birth was only routinely recorded from October 2013 onwards.

Justice Select Committee - Sir Oliver Heald QC MP evidence Session

Sir Oliver Heald QC MP appeared before the committee following the government response to the committee's report on tribunal fees, which the committee did not consider adequate.

The one-off evidence session focused mainly on three issues: the employment tribunal review, immigration and tribunal fees, and the principle of cross-subsidisation.

Employment tribunal review

  • The Chair, Bob Neill MP (Con), started by asking Sir Oliver why the government had published its response to the committee's report so late.
  • Sir Oliver said that the delay was caused mainly by the fact that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) was trying to obtain information from other departments.
  • Several MPs questioned the minister about the delay of the employment tribunal review.
  • Sir Oliver said that his department was considering the issue very carefully and that the review would be published in the New Year, but he could 'not put a month on it.'
  • Richard Arkelss MP (SNP) asked whether the committee's recommendations were still under consideration.
  • Sir Oliver said that, although he could not commit to any recommendations at this stage, they were under consideration. He added that the MoJ would publish the statistical data underpinning its decisions.

Immigration and asylum cases

  • Keith Vaz MP (Lab) asked why the MoJ had changed its mind about the fee increases.
  • Sir Oliver replied that several stakeholders had made the point that the MoJ should consider how the whole tribunal system functions, rather than considering one tribunal.
  • He also added that the MoJ was undertaking a review across the tribunals.
  • Vaz also asked whether there was an abuse of the tribunal system and Sir Oliver said there was no evidence of that.
  • Vaz pointed out that one of the main problems of the immigration tribunal was that that there were too many delays and he asked whether the minister would expect a better service by increasing the fees.
  • He then asked how much was paid back following the decision to reverse the fee increases. Sir Oliver said he did not have the figure and that he would write to committee.
  • Alberto Costa MP (Con) said that, when the government decided to scrap the criminal court charge, there was an impression that there would be a review of the other five charges.
  • Sir Oliver replied that the government was considering it.

Cross-subsidisation of court fees

  • Richard Arkelss MP asked the minister why the government had decided to double the divorce fees.
  • Sir Oliver reiterated that the MoJ was adopting a 'systemic approach', considering the principle of enhanced fees, rather than looking at one sector specifically.
  • Alex Chalk MP (Con) asked the minister if in his view it was right to use money raised through the fees to subsidise other departments.
  • Sir Oliver said that in principle, this it would be wrong and fees should subsidise the court system.
  • Victoria Prentice MP (Con) then asked whether the minister thought it was right that families 'at the most stressful time' should subsidise the criminal court system.
  • Sir Oliver argued that it would be more difficult to recover money from offenders.
  • Bob Neill noted that the fee income in civil court exceeded the courts expenditures and asked why the money raised should be used to subsidise prosecuting crime, which is a public good. He argued that this was effectively a 'divorce tax', as the government had a monopoly through the court on granting divorces.

House of Lords

Written question on the Unified Patent Court

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara asked about the government's intention to ratify the Unified Patent Court Agreement, and whether this would mean the UK will be subject to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the EU following the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe (minister of State for Energy and Intellectual Property), responding for the government, said that the UK has been a long-standing supporter of creating an international patent court for Europe. The decision to proceed with ratification provides a tangible realisation of the UK's commitment to continue to play a full role in relation to our European partners while we remain a member of the EU.

This decision should not be seen as pre-empting the UK's objectives in the forthcoming negotiations with the EU. It is also without prejudice to the UK's future position on the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union once the UK has left the EU.

Thursday 8 December

Nothing to report.


Friday 9 December

Nothing to report.

Tags: Westminster weekly update | European Union | Parliament | Brexit

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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