Alexandra Cardenas discusses the Home Office's newly-published Investigatory Powers Bill and the Cabinet Office's report on potential post-Brexit EU relationship models.
On Tuesday, the Home Office published the long-awaited Investigatory Powers Bill that sets out the powers available to the police, security and intelligence services to gather and access communications and communications data.
The draft Bill went through pre-legislative scrutiny, which concluded with three Parliamentary Committees making more than 100 recommendations to the Government. As part of this process, in December the Law Society gave evidence to the draft Investigatory Powers Bill Joint Committee, made of members of both Houses. In our oral and written evidence, we expressed concern that the draft Bill did not provide statutory protection to legal professional privilege (LPP) and we called for the Government to reconsider it.
We are pleased to see that the Government has acknowledged that legal professional privilege needs more adequate protection in the Bill. We remain concerned, however, that the protection may not go far enough and we will continue to scrutinise the Bill as if goes through both houses.
The Bill will have its second reading on 15 March. MPs will be given the opportunity to debate the general principles and themes of the Bill.
The length of the parliamentary process may vary, but we understand that the Government intends the Investigatory Powers Bill to become law before December 2016. This is when the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) sunset clause, a provision that gives a Bill an expiry date once it is passed into law, comes to an end.
Monday 29 February
Government: Legal Aid Agency new CEO appointed
Shaun McNally CBE was appointed Chief Executive of the Legal Aid Agency (LAA). Shaun, who is currently Director of Casework for the LAA, will take up the new role on 1 April 2016.
Tuesday 1 March
Government: Home Office published Investigatory Powers Bill
The Home Office published the Investigatory Powers Bill that sets out the powers available to the police, security and intelligence services to gather and access communications and communications data in the digital age.
We are pleased to see that the Government has acknowledged that legal professional privilege needs more adequate protection in the Bill. We remain concerned, however, that the protection may not go far enough and we will continue to scrutinise the Bill as it goes through both Houses.
The Bill will still be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny, following the normal parliamentary timetable, with a view to it receiving Royal Assent by the end of 2016.
See our press release
House of Lords: Short debate on whiplash reforms
We briefed Lord Beecham and the Liberal Democrat Lords office ahead of the debate.
Lord Hayward (Con) asked the Government about their plans to meet representatives of the insurance industry over treatment of whiplash injury claims. There was nothing particularly new revealed in the questions but the key points made during the questions were:
Ministerial meetings - In response to the original question, Civil Justice Minister Lord Faulks stated that ministers and officials were meeting with insurers and claimant lawyers as they work on the detail of the proposals.
Insurers settling claims - When Lord Hayward pushed on insurers settling potentially fraudulent claims, Lord Faulks stated that insurers settle because it costs too much to fight cases. With the small claims limit raised, the insurers will no longer have this as a valid reason not to contest claims.
Success of previous reforms - Lord Thomas of Gresford (Lib Dem) asked how the coalition’s policies on referral fees and Insurance Act 2015 had on the number of whiplash claims. Lord Faulks stated that referral fees, LASPO and MedCo portal are all contributing to a decrease in whiplash fees "but there are still too many, and we feel that there is a fraud at the root of all this".
Access to Justice - Lord Beecham (Lab) stated that the raising of the small claims limit to £5,000 will represent a further reduction in access to justice to people and even businesses of modest means with valid claims.
Insurers passing on savings to consumers - Lord Beecham asked the Government what steps they will taking to ensure that savings from "their latest surrender to the industry’s interests will be substantially passed on to policyholders?". He questioned whether the industry was compensated by the insurance tax levy increase. Lord Faulks argued that they were not surrendering to the insurance industry and two insurers had committed to reducing their premiums by £50 and that they will "watch very carefully to see whether they translate their promises into action".
Nuisance calls - Lord Hunt of Wirral (Con) asked whether the Government was taking steps to tackle nuisance calls.
International comparisons on whiplash - Lord Dubs (Lab) asked the minister to confirm that the rate of whiplash claims in Britain is 20 times higher than in France. Lord Faulks clarified that 9% or 225,000 of bodily in France were whiplash whilst 76% or 375,000 were in the UK.
Read the debate in full
Wednesday 2 March
Government: Cabinet Office report on potential models for the UK’s relationship with the EU
The Cabinet Office published a report looking at potential models for the UK’s relationship with the EU, if the UK were to vote to leave the EU. In short, the paper concludes that no existing model outside the EU can provide the same advantages and influence that the UK enjoys from its status inside the EU.
The Leave campaign responded that the UK would seek to establish its own independent model, outside of those outlined in the report. The Remain campaign will be hoping this report forces the Leave campaign to set out in more detail what this new relationship would look like, which so far has been lacking.
The options are Norway, Switzerland, Canada and Turkey. It also looks at a possible relationship based only on World Trade Organisation membership. It sets out the main features and implications of each of the key existing models for the relationship, and assesses their suitability for the UK.
This paper is the first part of the report that the Government will publish to meet the requirements in the European Union Referendum Act 2015. The second part of this report, which will provide information about the rights and obligations of the UK’s membership of the EU, will be published later.
Thursday 3 March
Nothing to report.
Friday 4 March
Nothing to report.