As Parliament finishes business ahead of the dissolution of parliament on 3 May, the Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Act and Criminal Finances Act received Royal Assent
The Ministry of Justice and Department for Exiting the EU both faced questions from MPs last week. Following questions from a number of MPs, the Lord Chancellor noted that she is working with the legal profession and others on the Brexit negotiations, and noted that family law is an important areas for cooperation with the EU. She also acknowledged the importance of supporting the legal services sector abroad and said that the government was working on a global Britain legal summit.
As the bills the government had prioritised had all received Royal Assent, parliament went into prorogation on Thursday 27 April which marks the end of all parliamentary business. Parliament will return for the state opening of parliament and Queen’s Speech on Monday 19 June.
This week in Parliament
Parliament is now in prorogation and will be formally dissolved on Wednesday 3 May.
Last week in Parliament
Monday 24 April
Tuesday 25 April
House of Commons
Justice oral questions
The final session of justice oral questions in this parliament took place. The main issues covered were domestic violence, the implications of Brexit for the justice system, human rights, modernisation of the courts system, and prison reform.
The main points were:
- Andrew Stephenson MP (Con), asked about the government's progress on its review of legal aid domestic violence evidence requirements. He also asked for a commitment to continued support for victims of domestic violence if a Conservative government returned.
- Justice and Courts Minister, Sir Oliver Heald QC MP, said that the government had announced its intention to make changes through secondary legislation that would make easier for victims of domestic violence to access legal aid. These changes include removing the time limit on all forms of evidence and accepting evidence from domestic violence supporting organisations. The minister gave his assurance, and stated that changes in courtrooms would also help improve the situation for victims.
Implication of Brexit for the justice system
- Gavin Newlands MP (SNP) asked the Lord Chancellor what assessment she had made of the effect of Brexit on the justice system.;
- In her response, the Lord Chancellor said the government wanted a smooth and orderly exit from the EU, whilst also accounting for any possible legal issues.
- Bob Neill MP (Con), chair of the Justice Select Committee, asked the government to consider his committee's recent report on Brexit, which stressed the importance of continued cooperation on criminal justice matters and information sharing with the EU.
- The Lord Chancellor said she was working with the legal profession and others on the Brexit negotiations, and added family law to the list of important areas for cooperation.
- Sir Edward Leigh MP (Con) asked what plans the government had to support the legal services sector post-Brexit.
- The Lord Chancellor acknowledged the importance of supporting the legal services sector abroad and said that the government was working on a global Britain legal summit.
Modernisation of the courts system
- Mark Menzies MP (Con) asked what assessment the Lord Chancellor had made of the effect of increased use of digital technology in the courts system on the effective delivery of justice.
- The Minister said that the government was investing over £1bn to create a simpler and better courts and tribunals system.
House of Lords
EU Lords justice sub-committee takes evidence on consumer protection
The EU Justice Sub-Committee held the first oral evidence session of its new inquiry into Brexit: consumer protection rights. The committee heard evidence from Mr Pete Moorey, Head of Campaigns, Which? and Mr Matt Upton, Head of Consumer Policy, Citizens Advice.
Committee Chair, Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, noted that the general election will take the committee out of action for “a couple of months” but said that she believes the session will be helpful to continue the committee’s thinking during the dissolution period.
The key points made by the witnesses were:
Important EU consumer protections: Moorey said the UK has led the way in the creation of consumer rights legislation citing the creation of the Digital Single Market as an example, and noted that the UK does usually go further than the directives require. Moorey added that the UK has a very strong consumer protection regime but that clarity needs to be found on cross border rights and enforcement. Upton echoed much of what Morrey said, but said that the UK will need to ensure cross border agreements back up domestic protections.
Brexit negotiations: Moorey said Which? was surprised that consumer rights did not feature in the Brexit White Paper and that there should be a 13th negotiating principle that speaks to this point. He noted the Great Repeal Bill White Paper did reference consumer rights but greater emphasis needed to be placed on them.
Great Repeal Bill: Moorey said there is still work ongoing to understand what is critical to the Great Repeal Bill, especially the review of secondary legislation as many consumer protections were transposed by statutory instruments. He said Brexit must not be used as a means to deregulate protections and clarity is needed from Government as to how they will be separating existing rights and what will be left for future trade deals. Moorey added that Which? has had some conversations with government but that it seems that they are in the very early stages of planning the Great Repeal Bill.
Gaps in consumer protection acquis: Moorey said in terms of UK domestic law it is possible for the acquis to be lifted and shifted into UK law. He said there is a potential gap regarding cross border matters. He noted that this occurs where the law comes in to force as if Rome I and Brussels II recast are lost or changed it will put consumer rights in contract law into doubt. Moorey cited car hire on the continent as an example of where people might not be able to exercise consumer rights if there is no level of reciprocity.
Financial services: Moorey noted that financial services is an area that needs to be watched carefully and that Which? has concerns that parts of the financial services industry might use Brexit as an opportunity to avoid certain protections.
Wednesday 26 April
Thursday 27 April
House of Commons
Exiting the EU oral questions
On Thursday ministers from the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) answered questions in the House of Commons. The main points discussed were:
Financial services: Minister for Exiting the European Union, Robin Walker MP, reiterated the government’s intention to ‘ensure that UK companies have the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in European markets, and to let European businesses do the same in the UK’. He noted that financial services is one area for which a bold and ambitious trade agreement will be sought, that DExEU will continue to consult industry during the negotiation period, and that the Government has made it clear that an implementation period will be important to minimise disruption.
Employment and workers' rights: Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis MP, said that the Great Repeal Bill White Paper sets out that the employment and workers’ rights under EU law will continue to be available in UK law after the UK has left the EU as the Bill will convert EU law into domestic law.
Devolved administrations: Minister of State for Exiting the European Union, David Jones MP, said the government fully respects the Sewel convention and have been working closely with the devolved administrations, particularly through the Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations. He would not be drawn on whether or not a legislative consent motion will be required for the Great Repeal Bill.
House of Lords
Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Act receives Royal Assent
The Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Bill received Royal Assent became an Act.
Criminal Finances Act receives Royal Assent
The Criminal Finances Bill received Royal Assent and became an Act. The final has not been published yet.
Friday 28 April
House of Lords
Justice Select Committee publishes wash up report
In the Justice Select Committee report on unfinished business, the Justice Committee noted that they had received over 80 submissions to their inquiry on personal injury and whiplash. They noted that they anticipated that the body of evidence would “facilitate the task of our successor committee should it decided to conduct an inquiry into this topic.”