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Article 50 bill amended in the House of Lords

07 March 2017

The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill is amended and the discount rate to personal injury compensation payments is lowered.

We expect a very busy week in parliament.

On Wednesday, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond MP will deliver the spring budget statement. The statement is expected to be low-key and focused on 'near-term measures' to support economic stability as Brexit begins. Some of the measures of relevance to the profession are:

  • Potential tax increases for the self-employed
  • Measures to help small firms with business rate rises
  • Consumer protection in relation to subscription fees
  • Investment in global technology development (artificial intelligence, robotics, biotechnology etc)
  • Investment in skills

Today, the House of Lords will discuss an oral question on the Solicitors Regulation Authority's proposals to reform the qualifications for admission to the profession. On Tuesday the lord chancellor will respond to oral questions from MPs on justice issues including small claims reform, pro bono and court reform.

Last week the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was discussed and amended at committee stage in the Lords. The government was defeated as peers voted by 358 votes to 256 to require proposals to ensure the rights of EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit within three months of triggering Article 50. This week peers will have another opportunity to discuss and propose further changes to the bill.

Further to the publication of the Prisons and Courts Bill two weeks ago, the lord chancellor announced that the discount rate to personal injury compensation payments would be lowered from 2.5 per cent to minus 0.75 per cent. The new rate would come into effect on 20 March 2017 and a consultation would be published before Easter. Ms Truss also gave evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee and announced that the government will publish a green paper on how to provide early legal support and improve public legal education.

Finally, this week we will celebrate International Women's Day at the Law Society. The Deputy Vice-President, Christina Blacklaws, will be hosting two events on women in the law.
Find out more  

This week in parliament

Monday 6 March

House of Lords

  • Oral question - Proposals by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to reform the qualifications for admission to the profession
  • European Union Committee - Oral evidence session - Brexit: devolution
    • The Rt Hon the Lord Forsyth of Drumlean
    • The Rt Hon the Lord Wallace of Tankerness QC

Tuesday 7 March

House of Commons

  • Justice oral questions
  • Exiting the European Union Committee - Oral evidence session - The UK’s negotiating objectives for its withdrawal from the EU
    • Mark Drakeford AM, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, National Assembly for Wales
  • Defence Committee - Oral evidence session - Investigations into fatalities involving British military personnel
    • Professor Richard Ekins, Tutorial Fellow in Law, St John's College, Oxford
    • Professor Kieran McEvoy, Professor of Law and Transitional Justice, Queen’s University Belfast
    • Professor Peter Rowe, Professor Emeritus of Law, Lancaster University
    • Professor Philippe Sands QC, Professor of Law, University College London
  • Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee - Oral evidence session - Future World of Work
    • Employment Lawyers Association
    • Office of Tax Simplification
    • TUC
    • The HR Dept Ltd
    • New Economics Foundation
  • Home Affairs Committee - Oral evidence session - EU policing and security issues
    • Rob Wainwright, Director, Europol

House of Lords

  • European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill - Report stage and third reading

Wednesday 8 March

House of Commons

  • Spring budget statement
  • Wales oral questions

House of Lords

  • Constitution Committee - Oral evidence session - Minister for Constitution
    • Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP, Minister for the Constitution
  • EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee - Oral evidence session - The EU Data Protection Package
    • Ms Elizabeth Denham, UK Information Commissioner, Information Commissioners Office

Thursday 9 March

House of Commons

  • Exiting the European Union oral questions
  • Debate - Human rights and the political situation in Turkey

House of Lords

  • Debate - International Women’s Day  

Friday 10 March

House of Commons

  • No business scheduled

House of Lords

  • Homelessness Reduction Bill - Committee stage - Committee of the Whole House

Last week in parliament

Monday 27 February

House of Commons

Discount rate to personal injury compensation payments announced

The lord chancellor announced that the discount rate to personal injury compensation payments would be lowered from 2.5 per cent to minus 0.75 per cent. The new rate will come into effect on 20 March 2017, following amendments to current legislation.

In addition to this, the government announced that a consultation would be launched before Easter to consider whether there is a better or fairer framework for claimants and defendants. The consultation is expected to consider options for reform including:

  • Whether the rate should in future be set by an independent body.
  • Whether more frequent reviews would improve predictability and certainty for all parties.
  • Whether the methodology is appropriate for the future.

Read the press release

House of Lords

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill - Committee stage (day 1) (see below)

Tuesday 28 February

House of Lords

Oral question on Police Intellectual Crime Unit

Following a question from Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Clement Jones, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Lord Prior confirmed that the government was committed to the Police Intellectual Property (IP) Unit and that it was in the process of discussing how it would be funded.

He noted that the intention was always for the government to fund it in the short term and that it would then be funded by rights holders as the insurance industry organised itself. Lord Prior went on recognise the important role that intellectual property plays in protecting and supporting investment and creativity of all kinds. He also notes that the UK is number one in the world for IP enforcement.

Wednesday 1 March

House of Lords

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill - Committee stage (day 2)

On Monday and Wednesday the House of Lords considered the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill in a Committee of the whole House. Both report stage and third reading of the bill will take place on Tuesday 7 March.

Only one amendment was made to the bill. Peers voted by 358 votes to 256 - a majority of 102 - to require the government to bring forward proposals to ensure the rights of EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit within three months of triggering Article 50.

Other amendments that were discussed, but not passed, at committee stage include:

  • EEA membership - This amendment considered continued EEA membership for the UK on the basis that retained membership in some form would mitigate against serious economic costs. Eurosceptic peers said EEA membership would not allow for control of borders, laws, courts or money.
  • Final vote on the deal - This amendment called for a final deal on exiting the EU to be approved both by parliament and through a referendum. Peers argued whether such a move would be to further uphold democracy or undermine the initial vote last June.
  • Single market - This amendment called for the prime minister to give an undertaking to negotiate on the basis that the UK would remain in the single market.

In Report Stage peers may seek to press amendments that call for parliament to have a 'meaningful' vote on the outcome of the negotiations. Following Report Stage and Third Reading, the bill will return to the House of Commons for the so-called 'Ping Pong' stage, where MPs would have to consider and vote on the amendments made in the House of Lords.

Constitution Committee evidence session with the lord chancellor

The House of Lords Constitution Committee held its annual evidence session with the lord chancellor. The following themes were discussed:

  1. Legal aid and Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO)
  2. The lord chancellor confirmed that the government was committed to review LASPO within the agreed timetable and that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) would be presenting a report to the Justice Select Committee this summer on some of the elements of LASPO including legal aid.

  3. Prisons and Courts Bill and green paper on public legal education/legal support
  4. The Prisons and Courts Bill would change the way the system works focusing more on public legal education, early support, and on developing an online system that people can easily access. The lord chancellor expressed concerns about litigants in person in the justice system.

    The government will publish a green paper on how to provide early legal support and improve public legal education.

  5. Independence of the judiciary, judicial diversity and appointments
  6. The lord chancellor said that her role was to be a custodian of the justice system, making sure it was sufficiently funded and that high quality judges were recruited and retained.

    She added that the country needed judges who felt valued by the government and by society. The lord chancellor raised concerns about the low numbers of solicitor judges and reiterated her commitment to social mobility in the legal profession including the judiciary. She added that she was working with the Law Society and the Bar Council on these subjects and that a working group had been constituted to identify what was holding people back from a career in the judiciary.

    As part of the MoJ’s strategy, the lord chancellor will appoint a new director in the ministry responsible for working with the judiciary and the Judicial Appointments Committee (JAC).

Thursday 2 March

House of Commons

Department of Health launches Rapid Resolution and Redress Scheme consultation

The Department of Health launched its consultation on the Rapid Resolution and Redress Scheme, a voluntary administrative compensation scheme for families affected by severe avoidable birth injury. The consultation closes on 26 May.
Read the consultation  

House of Lords

Lord Kakkar evidence on Judicial Appointments Commission

The chair and vice-chair of the Judicial Appointments Committee (JAC), Lord Kakkar and Lord Justice Sir Ian Burnett, gave evidence before the Constitution Committee and talked about the drive to improve judicial diversity. The main points were as follows:

  • LJ Burnett said that solicitors were applying for more senior posts, but that overall the level of applications from solicitors had remained level since 2012.
  • He also pointed out that the Committee had previously concluded that a significant deterrent to solicitors applying for judicial appointment was the attitude of law firms. This was largely due to the earning potential of candidates in practice at the point in their life where they might consider application for part time judicial roles.
  • Lord Kakkar said that he hoped that the JAC could help with the development of a curriculum that would support application for judicial office from a diverse range of people. He also called for increased public legal education, particularly around the role of judges.

Friday 3 March

Nothing to report.

Tags: politics | Westminster weekly update | 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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