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Our president meets the new Lord Chancellor and Brexit

13 February 2018

Last week the President of the Law Society met with the new Lord Chancellor, the Rt Hon David Gauke MP.  The meeting covered our priorities on Brexit, access to justice and the LASPO review, court modernisation and personal injury reform. 


The Law Society is looking forward to working closely with him and his team.

One of the issues discussed in the meeting with the Lord Chancellor was our early advice campaign, and you can now write to your local MP using our online system. Show your support by writing to your MP here – it only takes a few minutes.  

Over the coming weeks the Prime Minister and senior cabinet ministers are expected to deliver speeches to outline a new ‘roadmap’ for leaving the EU. The Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP is expected to deliver the first speech, and the Prime Minister will be speaking at the Munich security conference on Saturday 17 February. The Prime Minister is expected to address issues including the European Arrest Warrant and Europol as part of her speech.

Ahead of these speeches, we published a new report on the impact of a CETA-style deal, which you can read here. We argue that a CETA model would negatively impact the UK economy and the legal services sector, and provide a broader lack of legal certainty. We argue that a CETA-style agreement would be the equivalent to a ‘no deal’ outcome for the legal services sector on market access. The report has received very positive feedback from senior stakeholders, including from the Treasury.

Last week was a busy final week in Parliament before recess. On Wednesday the Law Society was mentioned in the Treasury Select Committee session regarding the work of the Financial Conduct Authority.

Tuesday saw the conclusion of Committee Stage for the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill [Lords]. The Bill will return to the Commons for Report Stage in the coming weeks.

As usual, much of the focus in Parliament last week was on Brexit, with an oral evidence session on the progress of the UK’s negotiations held by the Exiting the European Union Select Committee, and a debate held in Westminster Hall on Wednesday on the European Free Trade Association.

Parliament is now in recess, with both the House of Commons and the House of Lords due to return the following week on Tuesday 20 February 2018.

The provisional business for when Parliament returns includes the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords] Second Reading in the House of Commons, and a Public Accounts Committee oral evidence session on reducing modern slavery. The House of Lords will also begin its first of ten days of Committee Stage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.

This week in Parliament

Parliament is in recess and will return on Tuesday 20 February 2018.

Tuesday 20 February

Commons

    • Second Reading - Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords]

 Wednesday 21 February

Commons

    • Oral Questions – Cabinet Office
    • Westminster Hall Debate – Alternatives to a no-deal outcome in negotiations with the EU (Antoinette Sandbach MP)
    • Oral Evidence Session – Public Accounts Committee on reducing modern slavery

Lords

    • Committee Stage – Day 1 – European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

 Thursday 22 February

Commons

    • Oral Questions – International Trade

Lords

    • Oral Question - Assessment of the situation in Sudan regarding human rights and humanitarian aid (Baroness Cox)
    • Oral Evidence Session – EU Internal Market Sub-Committee regarding Brexit: future trade between the UK and EU in services (focus on creative industries)

Friday 23 February

Lords

    • Second Reading – Criminal Records Bill [HL]

Last Week in Parliament

Monday 5 February

House of Lords

Oral question on awareness of rights and obligations in respect of data protection and privacy

An oral question took place on Monday in the House of Lords on data protection and privacy.

Lord Holmes of Richmond (Conservative) asked the Government what action they are taking to ensure that people are aware of their rights and obligations in respect of data protection and privacy. He called for a public debate on a grand scale to enable everybody to understand the potential and pitfalls when it comes to the use of their data.

The Minister, Lord Ashton of Hyde, responded by highlighting the fact that General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect on 25 May this year and that the Government is working closely with the Information Commissioner’s Office to ensure that individuals and organisations are aware of their obligations and rights. He noted that the Government is establishing the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, which will advise on measures needed to support innovation in artificial intelligence and other data-related technologies.

Oral question on ensuring those facing removal from the UK have access to adequate legal advice

An oral question took place on Monday in the House of Lords on legal advice for asylum seekers. The full exchanges can be read here, and a summary is below.

  • Lord Roberts of Llandudno (Liberal Democrats) asked the Government whether it intends to ensure that every failed asylum seeker and anyone facing removal from the UK has access to adequate legal advice. He noted that many asylum seekers are unable to access legal advice, and that many of the decisions made by the Home Office are overturned on appeal. 
  • The Minister, Lord Keen of Elie, responded by noting that legal aid is available for individuals faced with deportation or where they are claiming asylum. All persons detained in immigration removal centres now have access to a duty solicitor and therefore have access to legal advice. The Government has commenced the post-implementation review of legal aid which includes in its scope legal aid for immigration and asylum cases.
  • Lord Thomas of Gresford (Liberal Democrats) noted a Bar Council report last November which found that at any one time more than 3,000 people, mostly failed asylum seekers, are held in administrative detention without being convicted of a crime. He noted a case from last Friday where the Court of Appeal had criticised the Home Office and awarded damages. He called on the Minister to review the means and merits test. The Minister, Lord Keen of Elie responded by noting that the Government is reviewing LASPO.
  • Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate (Conservative) called on the Government to recommit to the UN convention which set the criteria for granting asylum. The Minister, Lord Keen of Elie responded by agreeing that it is in the interests of genuine asylum seekers that the system for seeking asylum as permitted under the UN convention should not be abused.

Tuesday 6 February

House of Commons

Committee Stage of the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill

The Financial Guidance and Claims Bill passed through Committee Stage last week. The Law Society briefed the MPs that sit on the Bill Committee in advance of the session. The Bill will return to the Commons for its remaining stages in the coming weeks. A short summary of the Committee Stage proceedings is included below.

Interim fee cap for legal services regulators up to April 2020

Both the Minister, John Glen MP, and Shadow Minister, Jack Dromey MP, agreed that claims management services are carried out not only by claims management companies, but sometimes by legal service providers as well. Consumers needed to be protected no matter which type of claims management service provider they use whether regulated by the legal service regulators or by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The Government introduced amendments at Committee Stage that bring in interim restrictions on charges imposed by legal practitioners. The City Minister, John Glen MP, said that these measures will ensure that legal regulators can continue to impose fee restrictions for PPI claims from the point at which the transfer of regulation of CMCs to the FCA takes place. He noted that this will be effective in the case of the Law Society of England and Wales until it implements its own rules on fee capping and, in the case of the General Council of the Bar and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, until 29 April 2020. These amendments passed at Committee Stage.

Interim fee cap for legal services regulators after transfer of regulation to FCA

Separately a clause was also introduced which demands that legal services regulators enforce a fee cap in respect of charges by lawyers for certain claims management services provided in connection with a PPI claim until, in the case of the Law Society, the Society has made its own rules about charges for PPI claims, and in any other case, 29 April 2020. This new clause requires the Law Society of England and Wales, the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, after the transfer of regulation from the Claims Management Regulator to the FCA. This amendment passed at Committee Stage.

Cold calling

The Government also tabled an amendment to insert a provision into the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations which prohibits live unsolicited telephone calls for the purposes of direct marketing in relation to claims management services except where the person called has given prior consent to receiving such calls. The Minister said the new clause will ensure that any call, whether it is from a claims management company, an individual or a lead generator, made for the purposes of direct marketing in relation to claims management services, is an unlawful call unless the receiver has explicitly consented to that call being made to them. This amendment passed at Committee Stage.

Personal injury

Labour backbench MP, Ellie Reeves, said that “cold calling can generate the false perception that obtaining compensation is easy, even where there is no injury.” She highlighted the Government’s proposals to reform compensation rules for whiplash claims and to increase the small claims limit in road traffic accidents from £1,000 to £5,000, and in public liability and employers’ liability claims from £1,000 to £2,000. She raised her concerns that these changes will have a significant impact on access to justice, with people not being able to access proper legal advice in such claims, which can often be complex.

Wednesday 7 February

House of Commons

Treasury Select Committee session on the work of the FCA

The Treasury Select Committee held a session on the work of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on Wednesday.  The full session can be viewed here.

The witnesses at the session included FCA chief executive Andrew Bailey, and chairman John Griffith-Jones.

The session covered several technical areas of financial policy, including economic crime, de-risking and anti-money laundering. On Brexit, Bailey argued that it would be necessary for the FCA to implement contingency passporting plans, in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario.

There was a significant discussion of the RBS GRG Scandal, with Bailey stating that he hoped that the FCA would be able to release the full report into RBS, within the next few weeks. Bailey also stated that, post the scandal, there was an argument to strengthen the Senior Managers Regime as well as the Financial Ombudsman Service.

The Law Society was mentioned in the session by Committee member Rushanara Ali MP (Labour), who put it to Andrew Bailey that the newly launched Office for Professional Body Anti Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) had not “been well received by, for instance, the Law Society and the Bar Council” and asked whether he thought this put OPBAS in a disadvantageous position.

Andrew Bailey responded by saying he didn’t think the Law Society and the Bar Council “were overjoyed at the thought of FCA oversight” but that the FCA had to implement the clear decision made by the Government. Pressed further by Ali on what had been done to enable closer collaboration with these bodies, Bailey said the OPBAS team were working closely with both to gather their thoughts on what they do (for example on the cost recovery regime).  

Other key points in the session included:

  • Brexit and consumer protection: Catherine McKinnell MP (Labour) asked if Brexit would better enable the FCA to achieve its consumer protection objectives, due to many EU countries not having the same consumer standards as the UK. Bailey stated that he did not think this would be the case, as firms operating “Branch Passports” would have to abide by UK consumer protection regulations. However, he conceded that firms operating “Services Passports” are not bound by UK consumer protection laws.
  • EU legislation: Bailey stated that transposing EU laws and regulations into UK statute was the FCA’s greatest challenge.
  • Passporting: Bailey stated that the FCA would establish a temporary permissions regime, to temporarily allow passporting in the UK to continue, in the event of a “no deal” Brexit. He stated that a loss of passporting would lead to significant financial disruption and fragmentation, which would affect both the UK and the EU.
  • Economic crime: Bailey stated that the FCA have a dedicated team on economic crime, and said that the FCA is currently undertaking an Economic Crime Review and are working with the National Crime Agency and the Home Office on establishing a National Centre for Economic Crime. He argued that he would like to see changes to the financial crime reporting systems in the UK and greater Cross-Departmental cooperation, and said that the FCA could not quantify the scale of the economic crime which it wants to deter.

Westminster Hall debate on the European Free Trade Association

Stephen Hammond MP (Conservative) moved a debate in Westminster Hall on Wednesday regarding the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The full transcript of the debate can be read here, and a short summary is included below.

  • Moving the debate, Stephen Hammond MP noted that EFTA membership does not automatically entail membership of the single market, and argued that EFTA membership could provide economic benefits to the UK as we leave the EU. He argued that the CETA negotiations show how difficult and time-consuming a UK-EU deal could be. He welcomed the Government’s initiative in offering unilateral passporting to financial service. He called for the Government to keep open the option of re-joining EFTA.
  • Shadow Minister, Matthew Pennycook MP (Labour) welcomed the debate and noted that the Labour Party is clear that it wants to seek a deal with the EU that secures all the benefits of the single market and the customs union and that involves no diminution of the employment rights, equality rights, health and safety standards, and environmental protections and standards. 
  • The Minister, Robin Walker MP (Conservative) noted that the Government does not plan to seek membership of EFTA as it does not deliver market access to the EU, and because the ambition of the UK as a global trading nation goes beyond the scope of EFTAs existing free trade agreements with third countries. It will not seek membership of EFTA as it would mean accepting free movement between EFTA members, and that the UK’s participation in EFTA would fundamentally change the nature of the group and that it would not be an appropriate model for our relationship with the EU.

Thursday 8 February

House of Lords

Lords debate on judicial oversight of the European Arrest Warrant following Brexit

A debate was held in the House of Lords regarding the recent report from the European Union Committee regarding judicial oversight of the European Arrest Warrant following Brexit. The Law Society provided evidence to the Committee before it published the report.

The full debate transcript can be read here, and a short summary is included below.

  • Moving the debate, Lord Jay of Ewelme (Crossbencher) outlined the history of the European Arrest Warrant, and the Committee’s report. He focused on Ireland and the impact that the mechanism has had since the Good Friday Agreement. He called on the Government to ensure that the substance of the European Arrest Warrant remains in place during and after the transition period of leaving the European Union.
  • Responding to the debate, Lord Young of Cookham (Conservative) welcomed the report and the contributions by Peers to the debate. He outlined the Government’s priority to maintain the arrangements as far as possible, and noted that the Government sees a case for developing a new, dynamic treaty that provides a comprehensive framework for future security, law enforcement and criminal justice co-operation between the UK and the EU. It was noted that for this to function properly there would be a need for dispute resolution. The Government will look to engage constructively to negotiate an approach to enforcement and dispute resolution that meets the key objectives of the UK and the EU in underpinning the effective operation of a new partnership in this area. 

Friday 9 February

Nothing relevant.

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

Tags: Westminster weekly update

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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