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Article 50 bill discussed in the House of Lords and Prisons and Courts Bill published

01 March 2017

The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill is debated and the government publishes the Prisons and Courts Bill.

After a week of recess, parliament is now back in session.

Brexit continued to be at the top of parliamentary business last week. The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was debated as part of its second reading in the House of Lords. As expected, peers did not oppose the bill and it has now progressed to committee stage.

The government published the long-awaited Prisons and Courts Bill. The bill proposes legislative changes on prisons, procedures in civil, family and criminal matters, organisations of courts and tribunals, the judiciary and the judicial appointments commission and whiplash compensation. The second reading will take place in the next few weeks.
Read the Law Society press release on the Prisons and Courts Bill.

The government published its response to the consultations on the employment tribunal system.
Read the Law Society response.

The Ministry of Justice responded to the soft tissue injury claims process and announced measures to:

  • Increase the small claims limit for road traffic accident (RTA) related claims to £5,000
  • Increase the small claims limit for all other types of personal injury (PI) claims to £2,000 in line with inflation
  • Introduce a fixed tariff that will cover both RTA claims, including whiplash, and minor psychological claims
  • Ban offers to settle without medical evidence in RTA-related whiplash claims only
  • Keep the small claims limit for all personal injury (PI) claims under review and consider whether a further increase to £5,000 for all PI claims is required at a later stage

Some of these measures have been included in the Prisons and Courts Bill.

This week, parliament will continue to discuss Brexit, but it will also focus on LGBT history month and diversity, ahead of International Women's Day.

The Law Society is holding an event to mark Women's International Day - click on the link to book your place.

This week in parliament

Monday 27 February

House of Lords

  • European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill - Committee stage (day 1) - Committee of the Whole House

Tuesday 28 February

House of Commons

  • Westminster Hall debate - Importance of intellectual property to the British economy
  • Westminster Hall debate - LGBT History Month
  • Exiting the European Union - Oral evidence session - The UK’s negotiating objectives for its withdrawal from the EU
    • Professor Steven Peers, University of Essex
    • David Anderson QC, Brick Court Chambers
    • David Armond, Deputy Director General, National Crime Agency
  • International Trade - Oral evidence session - UK trade options beyond 2019
    • Colin Lawther, Senior Vice President, Supply Chain Management and Purchasing, Nissan
  • Home Affairs - Oral evidence session - EU policing and security issues
  • Sir Julian King, Commissioner for Security Union, European Commission

House of Lords

  • Oral questions - Continued funding for the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit

Wednesday 1 March

House of Commons

  • Public Accounts Committee - Oral evidence session - Defence equipment plan
    • Stephen Lovegrove, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence
    • Louise Tulett CBE, Director General Finance, Ministry of Defence
    • Tony Douglas, Chief Executive, Defence Equipment and Support
    • Lieutenant General Mark Poffley, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, Ministry of Defence
  • Procedure Committee- Oral evidence session - Delegated powers in the Great Repeal Bill
  • Professor Michael Dougan, Professor of European Law and Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law
  • Dr Mike Gordon, Senior Lecturer, Liverpool Law School, University of Liverpool

House of Lords

  • European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill - Committee stage (day 2) - Committee of the Whole House
  • Oral questions - Tackling the abuse of personal injury claims relating to incidents involving motor vehicles
  • Constitution Committee - Oral evidence session - Lord Chancellor, Judicial Appointments Commission
    • Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice
    • Rt Hon Professor Lord Kakkar, Chair of the Judicial Appointments Commission
  • EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee - Oral evidence session - The EU Data Protection Package

Thursday 2 March

House of Commons

  • Backbench Business - (i) International Women's Day (ii) Welsh affairs

House of Lords

  • Debate - The report from the EU Committee Brexit: The options for trade

Friday 3 March

Both houses not sitting.

Last week in parliament

Monday 20 February

House of Lords

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill - Second reading (day 1)

Tuesday 21 February

House of Lords

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill - Second reading (day 2)

The second reading of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill took place on Monday and Tuesday. As expected, the House of Lords did not oppose the passage of the bill and there was no division when the debate concluded. As part of the debate, Baroness Smith, the shadow leader of the House of Lords, confirmed that the Labour Party will not seek to oppose the passage of the bill.

Specifically of interest to the Law Society, the following topics were raised:

  • European Arrest Warrant (EAW) - A number of peers, including Lord Stevens of Ludgate (UKIP), Lord Lester of Herne Hill (Lib Dem) and Baroness Henig (Lab) made reference to the EAW, seeking clarity as to whether it is the UK’s intention to remain subject to it.
  • Europol - Baroness Meacher (Crossbench) noted that the UK led on four areas of Europol’s work and said that the UK would still need access to the Europol database.
  • Unified Patent Court - Lord Stevens of Ludgate (UKIP) asked why the UK’s signature to the unified patent court agreement - which is subject to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) - had been put down by the government as a negative statutory instrument.
  • Professional qualifications - Lord Hain (Lab) noted the importance of the mutual recognition of qualifications, and said that without this there could be a large repatriation of British migrants.
  • Civil justice co-operation - Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (Lib Dem) noted that the Brussels I and Lugano regime enable the UK’s commercial law to function.

Wednesday 22 February

House of Commons

Sir Ivan Rogers evidence to the Exiting the EU Select Committee

Sir Ivan Rogers, former UK Permanent Representative to the European Union, gave evidence to the Exiting the EU Select Committee. In his response to the Committee, he made the following main points:

  • It may take until the mid-2020s until there is a ratified deep and fully comprehensive free-trade agreement between the UK and the EU
  • He stressed the time needed to negotiate a deal, and then a further two years in order to ratify it.
  • Striking a deal on equivalence that allows UK firms to trade in the EU if its regulatory framework remains comparable to the bloc's is key.
  • It is unlikely that EU Member States would agree to sectoral deals, such as for financial services, if it meant jeopardising the unity of the EU negotiating position.
  • If the UK reverted to World Trade Organisation rules should it be unable to agree a trade deal, it would enter a 'legal void'.

View the session

Thursday 23 February

Government - Introduction of the Prisons and Courts Bill

The bill proposes legislative changes in four main areas:

Prison safety and reform

  • It sets out a new framework and clear system of accountability for prisons, based on the principle that a key purpose of prison is to reform and rehabilitate offenders, as well as punish them for the crimes they have committed.

Court reform

  • It introduces measures relating to courts that aim to protect victims and the most vulnerable, as well as improving the system for those who use it every day.
  • It allows offenders charged with some less serious criminal offences, such as failure to produce a ticket for travel on a train, will be able to plead guilty online, accept a conviction, be issued a penalty and pay that penalty.
  • The judiciary

    • It provides a better working environment for judges, with modern court facilities and better IT that will help manage cases more efficiently.

    Whiplash compensation

    In line with its response to the Reforming the Soft Tissue Injury (‘whiplash’) Claims Process consultation, which was released just before the introduction of the bill, the government intends to introduce the following measures:

    • A fixed tariff that will cover both road traffic accident (RTA) claims, including whiplash, and minor psychological claims.
    • An increase to the small claims limit for RTA related claims to £5,000.
    • An increase to the small claims limit for all other types of personal injury (PI) claims to £2,000 in line with inflation.
    • A ban to offers to settle without medical evidence in RTA related whiplash claims only.

    Read the Law Society response

    Reforming the Employment Tribunal System consultation outcome

    The government published its response to the Reforming the Employment Tribunal System consultation, which closed in January. The consultation set out our proposals for changes to the Employment Tribunals Act 1996.

    The government confirmed its intention to:

    • Digitise the whole claims process so that users can digitally start a claim, track progress, provide evidence and information, and participate in innovative resolution methods
    • Amend the Employment Tribunals Act 1996 to:
      • Confer the power to determine panel composition in the Employment Tribunal and in the Employment Appeal Tribunal on the Lord Chancellor.
      • Provide for this power to be able to be delegated to the Senior President of Tribunals.
      • Confer the power to make procedural rules on the Tribunal Procedure Committee.
      • Appoint two additional members to the Tribunal Procedure Committee in the form of an employment judge and a legal practitioner with specific experience of the employment tribunal system.

    Read the Law Society response

    Friday 24 February

    Nothing to report.

    Tags: politics | 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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