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Westminster update: Lord Chancellor questioned by Constitution Committee

16 May 2018

This week in the House of Lords, Dr Helena Raulus, Head of the UK Law Societies' Joint Brussels Office will give evidence to the EU Justice Sub-Committee on Brexit and civil justice co-operation. 

The House of Lords will consider the Civil Liability Bill in its second day of Committee Stage today.

Meanwhile in the Commons, Ruth Cadbury MP is bringing forward a debate on housing and access to legal aid in connection with the Law Society's campaign on early legal advice in housing. The Justice Select Committee is holding a session as part of the ongoing inquiry into disclosure of evidence in criminal cases.

This week also sees the Home Affairs Select Committee meet to discuss windrush children, the session will hear from the recently appointed Home Secretary, Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP.

Last week, the Lord Chancellor gave evidence to the Constitution Committee. The Lord Chancellor, David Gauke MP spoke on his Department's desire to see legal professionals from a broader range of backgrounds in law entering the judiciary. He stated the Law Society was working with the Department to help deliver the aim of seeing more solicitors pursuing a judicial position.

On Tuesday, the Law Society's new Future of Law lecture series was launched with an inaugural speech from Sir Geoffrey Vos, Chancellor of the High Court.  Sir Geoffrey spoke about the use of smart contracts and distributed ledger technology in transactions, and about the future of law more widely. You can read Sir Geoffrey's speech here . On the same day, Dr Anna Bradshaw, member of the Law Society's EU Committee, gave evidence to the House of Lords on a future UK-EU security treaty.

The APPG for Legal and Constitutional Affairs held the first meeting of its inquiry into the effect of Brexit on the legal sector on Wednesday 9 May. The Law Society's President, Joe Egan, spoke at the event.

The House of Lords concluded its Report Stage scrutiny on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill last week. The Bill will receive its Third Reading in the Lords on Wednesday 16 May, where further amendments could be tabled. MPs will then get a chance to debate and vote on the amended Bill when it returns to the Commons for ping pong, expected late May.

This week in Parliament

Monday 14 May

House of Commons

  • Westminster Hall Debate on an e-petition relating to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry (Paul Scully MP)

House of Lords

  • Data Protection Bill [HL] - Consideration of Commons Amendments

Tuesday 15 May

House of Commons

  • Westminster Hall Debate on administration of justice in respect of Daniel Cresswell (Crispin Blunt MP)
  • Westminster Hall Debate on public legal education (Ranil Jayawardena MP)
  • Justice Select Committee oral evidence session on disclosure of evidence in criminal cases
  • Treasury Select Committee oral evidence session on economic crime
  • Home Affairs Select Committee oral evidence session on windrush children with the Home Secretary

House of Lords

  • Civil Liability Bill [HL] – Committee Stage (Day 2)
  • EU Justice Sub-Committee oral evidence session on Brexit and civil justice cooperation with Dr Helena Raulus, Head of Brussels Office, and Alexander Layton QC, 20 Essex Street
  • Communications Committee oral evidence session on the internet, to regulate or not to regulate?

Wednesday 16 May

House of Commons

  • Westminster Hall Debate on housing and access to legal aid (Ruth Cadbury MP)
  • European Scrutiny Committee oral evidence session on EU withdrawal with the Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, SoS for Northern Ireland
  • Treasury Select Committee oral evidence session on SME finance

House of Lords

  • Oral question on improving the assessment of immigration applications by UK Visas and Immigration (Lord Roberts of Llandudno)
  • European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – Third Reading
  • EU Financial Affairs Sub-Committee oral evidence session on contractual continuity post Brexit


  • Joint Committee on Human Rights oral evidence session on detention of the Windrush generation

Tuesday 8 May

Future of Law lecture series

The Law Society's new Future of Law lecture series was launched on 8 May with an inaugural speech from Sir Geoffrey Vos, Chancellor of the High Court. You can read Sir Geoffrey's speech here

  • Sir Geoffrey spoke about the use of smart contracts and distributed ledger technology in transactions, and about the future of law more widely. Sir Geoffrey has spoken eloquently on this topic previously and of the increasing concern for the profession given the real impact it will have on how judgments are made under common law, the regulatory implications and how it could affect the work of legal professionals.
  • In his speech, Sir Geoffrey reiterated his confidence that the common law is ideally suited to handle technological developments and that English law will prove to be adept and provide certainty. He also said that greater regulation was inevitable, no matter how light touch, and that this regulation would need to be cross border as the internet itself is.
  • When asked what law firms should be doing to prepare lawyers for change, Sir Geoffrey expressed the view that many of those entering the profession were already technologically proficient and were training themselves so should be given the means and opportunity to do so. 
  •  He did also mentioned that those skills that were valued when he was training, were not necessarily appropriate for the changing nature of legal issues faced by lawyers today.
  • The future of law lecture series is a programme of lectures from experts in their fields, on topics concerning the legal profession.  The aim is to bring together leaders from across the legal profession with our members, policy-makers and high-profile speakers to discuss how to maintain a successful legal services sector in the future.

House of Commons

Debate on Advocates' Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS) regulations

On Tuesday a debate took place in the House of Commons on a motion to revoke the Criminal Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) Regulations 2018. The motion was brought forward by the Labour Party frontbench following concerns raised by members of the Criminal Bar which has led them to take direct action.

The motion was defeated, and the regulations will remain in place.

The Law Society was mentioned three times in the debate, including reference to our legal action on the Litigator's Graduated Fee Scheme (LGFS)FS, and our data on the ageing profession of criminal duty solicitors.

You can read the full transcript here and a summary is included below:

  • Introducing the debate, Shadow Lord Chancellor, Richard Burgon MP raised concerns that people may be left unrepresented in court. He noted that around 100 barrister's chambers are in effect striking by taking co-ordinated industrial action and refusing to take on publicly funded work. He said that this action is already having an effect.
  • Burgon spoke about the wider cuts to the Ministry of Justice and the criminal justice system. He said that 'the deep crisis unleashed by drastic cuts could soon become an emergency.'
  • Burgon argue that access to legal representation and justice are fundamental rights, and that if people are denied those rights, then the rights are 'not worth the paper they are written on.'
  • He raised concerns about social mobility within the legal professions which could be impacted by the cuts.
  • He noted that criminal solicitors are facing similar issues with the litigators graduated fee scheme, and that the Law Society have published data on advice deserts in criminal duty solicitors. He noted that the Law Society is judicially reviewing the Government on the LGFS.
  • Responding, the Minister Lucy Frazer QC MP, said that as a former Barrister, she understands the role that advocates play in justice. She said that the Ministry of Justice take seriously the concerns raised about the wider justice system.
  • She said that the scheme is not a cut and is more likely to give rise to an increase in expenditure on the scheme. She described the scheme as more advantageous to the Bar overall than the one it replaces.
  • She said that the old system is not supported by the Bar, and that they engaged in constructive dialogue with the Bar on the new scheme.
  • Chair of the Justice Select Committee, Bob Neill MP (Conservative) said that the Government should look at future designs of the scheme now and noted concerns with disclosure. He said that revoking the scheme would not help, but rather the case should be made for more funding for the criminal bar.
  • Sandy Martin MP (Labour) asked about the criminal duty solicitor data produced by the Law Society and the fact that there are no criminal duty solicitors under 35 in Suffolk, Norfolk, Cornwall or Worcestershire.

Data Protection Bill
The Data Protection Bill underwent Report Stage and Third Reading in the House of Commons. The Bill will return to the House of Lords today for consideration of Commons amendments in 'ping pong'. The full transcript can be found here. The Law Society briefed on our concerns about the immigration exemption included in the Bill. Our press release on this issue can be found here .

Immigration Exemption

  • An amendment was tabled on removing the immigration exemption from the Bill (contained in schedule 2). Margot James MP set out that when seeking access to data from the Home Office to prove their immigration history, such as in the Windrush cases, someone would not to invoke the immigration exemption in the Bill. She argued that data subjects will keep themajority of their rights—but it cannot be right for the Home Office to have to furnish someone who is in contravention of immigration law with information it has been given.
  • Ranil Jayawardena MP asked if the Home Office would have to disclose sources of tip-offs without the immigration exemption, adding that this would not be conductive to ensuring the proper control of illegal immigration. Margot James MP responded that exemption can be applied only where compliance with the relevant rights would be likely to prejudice the maintenance of immigration control. She said this "prejudice" rest would have to be applied first meaning the situations where the exemption can be used is limited.

Legal professional privilege

  • Government amendments 139 and 140 related to legal professional privilege. The amendments replicate the existing measures and exemptions for legal professional privilege found in the Data Protection Act 1998
  • Amendments 10 and 11 sought to widen the legal professional privilege exemptions.  The Amendments offer some changes intended to recognised the broader range of material covered by a lawyer's ethical duty of confidentiality. The Minister of State, Department for Digital Media and Sport,  Margot James noted that the Government agreed that the Bill needed more clarity and had tabled amendments 139 and 140 in response.

Legal aid

  • Jim Cunningham MPsaid to pursue rights confirmed under the GDPR, people also need access to legal aid. He argued in some circumstances such people are being denied legal aid. 

House of Lords

EU (Withdrawal) Bill Report Stage Day 5 & 6

The House of Lords concluded its Report Stage scrutiny on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill this week. The fifth and sixth Report Stage debates can be read here and here .

The Bill will receive its Third Reading in the Lords on Wednesday 16 May, where further amendments could be tabled. MPs will then get a chance to debate and vote on the amended Bill when it returns to the Commons for ping pong, expected late May.

A brief summary of the debates on both days is below:

Day 5

  • Government devolution amendments: Several Government amendments were tabled to the Bill and accepted by Peers without opposition. These amendments include:
  • Amendments 89ZZD and 89CA, which state that no Minister from a Devolved Administration can act to amend retained EU law, if doing so is in breach of the respective acts of devolution.
  • Amendment 89D to Clause 11 of the Bill, which further clarifies the meaning of 'devolved competence'. Under provisions in the amendment, devolved competence is defined by the founding acts of the UK's devolved administrations and any subordinate legislation that devolved administrations have passed that fall within their legislative remit.
  • Amendment 89DA to Clause 11 of the Bill. The amendment provides further clarity to devolved powers in relation to retained EU Law. The amendment states that the UK Government cannot pass regulations on EU retained law that would have been within the legislative competence of the devolved administrations – unless the devolved administrations have been informed and provided consent for such regulations to be passed. The amendment also states that the Government's power to create regulations relating to devolution will expire two years after exit day at the latest.
  • Amendment 92AD to Schedule 3 of the Bill. The first part of this amendment states that the UK Government must report relevant changes to EU retained law to the devolved administrations.

Day 6

The Government suffered four defeats on the Bill, bringing the total number of defeats on the Bill at the Lords Report Stage to fourteen. The four defeats related to: EEA membership; the date of exit day; statutory instrument (SI) sifting committees; and EU agencies.

The Government also passed several amendments to the Bill relating to devolution.

  • EEA Membership: Lord Alli (Labour) tabled amendment 110A to Clause 19 of the Bill, which requires the Government to adopt, as a negotiating objective with the EU, continued participation in the European Economic Area (EEA) post Brexit. Responding for the Government, Brexit Minister Lord Callanan argued that EEA membership would entail the UK accepting the four freedoms of the Single Market, including freedom of movement, as well as accepting future EU legislation which it will not influence in shaping.
  • Exit Day: The Duke of Wellington (Conservative) tabled amendment 95 to Clause 14 of the Bill. The amendment removes the definition of 'Exit Day' in the Bill from being 11pm on 29 March 2019, changing this to a date which Ministers will be compelled to define by parliamentary regulations. This would, in effect, remove the ability of the Government to define in statute the date upon which the UK would cease to be a member of the EU. Responding for the Government, Lord Callanan stated that the amendment was unnecessary due to the fact that the date upon which the UK will cease to be a member of the EU is already predetermined, by the scope of the Article 50 negotiating period, and not the exit date contained within the Bill.
  • Sifting Committee: Lord Lisvane (Crossbench) tabled amendment 70 to Schedule 7 of the Bill. The amendment replaces the new provisions on a sifting committee added into the Bill at Commons Committee stage with an alternative provision on sifting committees, aiming to make this more robust. The sifting committee that would be created under this amendment would apply to all statutory instruments (giving it wider scope) and would have the power to 'require' greater scrutiny for statutory instruments, rather than just 'recommend' that there needs to be greater scrutiny, as is currently drafted. Responding for the Government, Baroness Evans of Bowes Parks argued that the Government was already committed to ensuring that both Houses were empowered to scrutinise the use of SIs. However, she further argued that amendment 70 would cause serious practical delay in the passing of necessary SIs, leading to continued deficiencies in EU law post-Brexit.
  • EU Agencies: The Lord Bishop of Leeds (Bishop) tabled amendment 93 before Clause 14 of the Bill. The amendment states that the Bill should not prevent the UK from replicating EU law into the UK domestic statute book post-Brexit and should not prevent the UK from participating in, or having a formal relationship with, EU agencies following the UK's withdrawal. Responding for the Government, Lord Callanan stated that the amendment was unnecessary, due to the fact that if there is a role for any EU agency in the UK post-Brexit as part of the withdrawal agreement, it will be legislated for under the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill.
  • Scope of Delegated Powers: The Government tabled a number of amendments to Schedule 7 of the Bill that would increase the reporting requirements of Ministers to Parliament when introducing statutory instruments, which were accepted by peers without opposition.
  • Devolution: The Government tabled a range of amendments relating to the scrutiny procedures of the devolved authorities to the Bill, which were accepted by Peers without opposition. This includes amendment 70 to Schedule 7 of the Bill, which relate to the powers of the Committee of the National Assembly for Wales to sift certain regulations involving Welsh Ministers and amendments 72ZA, 72ZB and 72ZC to Schedule 7 of the Bill. These amendments relate to the urgent scrutiny procedures of devolved authorities in certain urgent cases.  
  • Sunset Clauses: The Government's amendment 104A to Schedule 4 of the Bill, which would prevent the Government from passing regulations through Statutory Instruments (SIs) relating to fees and charges after two years from the UK's withdrawal from the EU, was agreed by peers without opposition.

Dr Anna Bradshaw evidence on UK-EU security treaty

The House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub Committee took oral evidence as part of its inquiry into Brexit and the proposed UK-EU security treaty.

The two witnesses were:

  • Dr Anna Bradshaw (AB), Member of the Law Society's EU Committee and Partner, Peters and Peters
  • Tim Devlin (TD), Furnival Chambers, representing both the Criminal Bar Association and the Bar Council.

The Law Society's Public Affairs team helped prepare Dr Bradshaw for the session.

A summary of the session is below:

  • Other EU mechanisms for co-operation: Former Conservative MP and MEP Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate began by asking about which EU instruments, apart from the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), enabled police co-operation to take place. TD said the exchange of information was very valuable in the UK and that the joint investigation teams were useful. TD went on to say that in the negotiations the UK could "offer" its vital role in combating financial crime in Europe, and the fact that a lot of valuable information on terrorism comes from the UK and the US. Responding to a later question from Labour peer Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan, AB said that London's continuing role as the leading global financial centre meant there were considerations around asset recovery systems, and unidentified wealth orders to recover the proceeds of crime. 
  • AB said firms were dealing with more and more EAWs, and predicted that the new European Investigation Orders would see a similar dramatic increase. She added that mutual recognition instruments were also very useful tools, including on the process of asset recovery, and foreign restraint orders and confiscation orders.
  • Lord Kirkhope followed-up by asking whether it was more in the interest of Europeans to have EAWs than the UK (in terms of UK removals to the EU). TD said Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and to a lesser degree, Spain were the countries that the UK issued the most EAWs to – adding that the EAW mechanism was of great value to the UK regardless of what the numbers say. AB said the EAW statistics would provide a window to gauge demand for extradition, and that if there was a decrease after Brexit then it could be inferred that the bureaucracy of the new system would be to blame.
  • Stand-in Committee Chair Lord Ribeiro asked to what extent these EU instruments brought "added value," compared to the laws that they replaced. AB said the instruments brought strict deadlines, reduced costs, and fewer grounds for refusal. She added that there was also a predictability about how requests are made.
  • Human rights and EU co-operation: Labour peer Baroness Massey of Darwen asked about the human rights concerns the witnesses had about the operation of the EAW or other EU laws in police and judicial co-operation. AB said mutual recognition instruments had developed over the past decade and that there was a possibility there would be a change in emphasis after Brexit. TD said the issue of human rights diminishing after Brexit was less of an issue to worry about. He added that it was possible the UK may have to negotiate bilateral treaties if these issues were not covered by European rules.
  • Terror suspect extradition: Lord Ribeiro used the example of terror suspects in Ireland in the past and asked whether the UK would be able to extradite from the Republic of Ireland those charged with terror offences in the Troubles. TD responded that the Good Friday Agreement forbids these historical charges, however for future offences the pursuit of criminals across the Irish border was permitted under the 1923 Common Travel Area agreement.
  • Proposed security treaty: Asked by Conservative Peer Baroness Browning if the Government should seek to retain or replicate any areas of law within the police and judicial co-operation field, AB said there needed to be a much more even application of schemes to supplement the EAW. She added that the UK's existing participation in these schemes was patchy.
  • Pressed further by Baroness Browning about whether the UK was a reluctant participant in this area, TD said the UK opted out of all home affairs legislation after the Lisbon Treaty, and then subsequently opted back in. He added that the UK's participation had been more enthusiastic in some areas than in others. He went on to say the EU wanted to streamline procedures on computer cybercrime and standardise investigation techniques. He added that because the UK was in such close proximity to the EU, it would want to participate in as much as possible in the exchange of information.
  • Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Janke put the points of Michel Barnier to the witnesses, specifically his points that the UK could not expect to have all the privileges of the club if you left the club. TD said the UK-EU relationship would move from member to interested friend. AB said the Lisbon Treaty's mutual recognition provisions were an agreement to disagree.
  • Labour peer Lord Solely asked whether a treaty could adequately replace the existing instruments, TD replied that it probably could not, adding that EU law would not stand still and would need successive treaties to keep up. He also said it was a misconception in the referendum campaign that the EU had held back the UK in human rights law.
  • Law Society CJEU paper: Referencing our CJEU paper, Lord Solely asked about the Law Society's position in this area and our "clear statement that the UK can't stay involved with the CJEU" after Brexit. AB said the Law Society's concern was based on the fact there would be no longer be UK input into the CJEU, adding that the Lugano Convention was the most obvious solution as it most closely resembled the Icelandic and Norwegian extradition arrangements with the EU. AB added that she couldn't see a better solution than this, and that the mechanism needed to be politically workable to effectively resolve disputes.
  • Answering a subsequent question from Baroness Janke on how the security agreement would respect the sovereignty of the UK and EU legal orders, AB reiterated the Law Society's position that the CJEU should not have direct jurisdiction over the final agreement, and that the sovereignty issue meant that the UK had to be able to independently interpret the agreement.
  • Lugano Convention: Following up from the previous questions on the CJEU, Lord Solely reminded those present that individual EU member states were signatories to the Convention, rather than the EU collectively. TD agreed with this, saying that Switzerland was also a signatory, adding that the Government was clearly trying to negotiate one treaty with the EU rather than with the member states. Asked by Lord Solely for alternatives to this, AB said it would be easier to suggest these once they had a better idea of what the treaty would cover.
  • Security agreement: Crossbencher and former UK national security adviser Lord Ricketts asked whether they agreed with the Prime Minister's statement in her Munich speech that there was "no legal or operational reason why an agreement [on internal security] could not be reached." TD agreed with the statement but said there could be political reasons why this agreement is not reached. He went on to say that the UK had an "entirely one-sided" extradition agreement with the US, as it had not been ratified in the US Senate – meaning the UK was used to these one-sided arrangements. TD also said any delay in negotiating this would only accelerate the signing of a one-sided treaty. AB said there was not yet enough specifics on the scope of the agreement.
  • Data protection: AB said there would need to be some way of ensuring UK adequacy and standard of approval to bring the EU27 to the table.

Wednesday 9 May

APPG for Legal and Constitutional Affairs
The APPG for Legal and Constitutional Affairs held the first meeting of its inquiry into the effect of Brexit on the legal sector on Wednesday 9 May.

The meeting highlighted serious concerns on the impact of Brexit on the legal sector and for the ability for individuals and firms to practise and establish themselves in the EU.

The APPG, chaired by Jonathan Djanogly MP, heard contributions from the President of the Law Society, Joe Egan, alongside representatives of the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) and direct from legal practitioners from the firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and the firm Londono Global Law Firms.

Key concerns raised in the meeting include the impact of Brexit on:

  • the ability for individuals and firms to practise and establish themselves in the EU – at present it is relatively easy for UK lawyers to practise in other EU countries. Brexit risks leaving a patchwork of 31 different jurisdictions and relationships for law firms to contend with, creating additional burdens and costs.
  • fly-in-fly-out rules – lawyers need to be able to provide clients with the advice that they want when and where they need it. If UK lawyers are not able to provide this, there is a risk that businesses may go elsewhere, leaving UK law firms less competitive.
  • the UK as a global legal centre and the legal services sector's contribution to the economy – The UK is the second largest legal services sector in the world and the largest legal services sector in Europe. In 2017, the sector contributed over £26bn to the UK economy, equivalent to 1.5% of the total UK GDP. To ensure that the legal services sector can continue to make a positive economic contribution, mutual market access for lawyers and firms must be maintained after Brexit. Without a future agreement ensuring market access and practise rights, world-leading law firms based in the UK risk losing business or taking their business elsewhere in Europe.
  • the mutual recognition of qualifications – it was noted that the legal sector in the UK is increasingly diverse, attracting talent with different academic backgrounds and qualifications and allowing people into the profession in new ways such as through apprenticeships. And many solicitors or legal professionals without law degrees could be left unable to practise in certain countries after Brexit.

House of Lords

Lord Chancellor gives evidence to the Constitution Committee

The Lord Chancellor gave evidence to the Constitution Committee. The full session can be viewed here and the summary is included below.

Top Lines

The Lord Chancellor, David Gauke MP spoke on his Department's desire to see legal professionals from a broader range of backgrounds in law entering the judiciary. He stated the Law Society was working with the Department to help deliver the aim of seeing more solicitors pursuing a judicial position.


  • The Lord Chancellor said protecting securing the position of legal services after Brexit was something he was very focused when engaging in meetings internationally and with the EU. He said it was a prominent priority within the Ministry of Justice and there was engagement with the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU as well as with the legal profession. David Gauke MP described engagement with other part of government on the issue as very strong and said along with DExEU, his department was also in discussion with BEIS and the Treasury.
  • The Lord Chancellor also demonstrated an understanding of the importance of the legal sector, describing it as a large part of the UK economy and stressed the need to secure its post-Brexit future.
  • Lord Hunt asked the Chancellor about the importance of, and the need to protect, the UK legal services sector post Brexit. In response, the Lord Chancellor echoed the importance of  the legal services sector stating it was worth £24 billion a year. The Lord Chancellor added that the potential value of the UK legal sector could be greater due to the adoption of financial technology and artificial intelligence in which English law would have an advantage as English is the development language of these technologies. 
  • On the need to protect the UK legal sector post Brexit, the Lord Chancellor told Lord Hunt he sought to ensure civil and judicial cooperation and mutual recognition of professional qualifications. He also spoke about the international campaign highlighting the strength of UK legal services and said there was teams out in Kazakstan and China promoting legal services.

Access to Justice

  • Lord Dunlop referenced the Ministry of Justice's post implementation review of LASPO and asked how it was improving access to justice. He pointed to the rise in the number of litigants, comments made by judges in the Ministry of Justice's internal report and cases of criminal defendants appearing without legal representation. The Lord Chancellor replied that legal aid was important and added to was always right to look again.
  • Lord Dunlop followed up by asking if the Justice Secretary believed if funding for legal aid was sufficient. In response, David Gauke MP said he did not want to prejudge the findings of the review, that applicants for legal aid are overwhelmingly receiving it and there was a need to look closely at the available evidence.
  • Lord Morgan stated that the Lord Chancellor had referenced the views of the legal profession on legal aid but asked if there had been any attempts to get the views of litigants and those of ethnic minorities. The Lord Chancellor replied saying the review was being undertaken with a wide range of organisations for a broad range of evidence and said he would demonstrate to the committee by providing them with full list of stakeholders.

The Lord Chancellor was also asked questions on the role of the Law Commission and the financial stability of the court estate.

Thursday 10 May

House of Lords

Civil Liability Bill

The Civil Liability Bill was debated at Committee Stage in the House of Lords for the first time last Thursday. The Law Society briefed peers ahead of the debate.

During the day's debate, Clauses 1 to 7 were agreed to without amendment, and debate will continue with Day 2 of Committee Stage on Tuesday 15 May.

Several peers moved probing amendments to the Bill, which were debated, but subsequently withdrawn.

These amendments included:

  • Amendment 1, proposed by the Earl of Kinnoull (Crossbencher), which sought to include a wide definition of 'whiplash' in the Bill that was amendable with Parliamentary oversight. Responding for the Government, Lords Ministry of Justice Spokesperson Lord Keen of Elie said: "The detailed definition of whiplash injury will need to reconcile the current legal understanding with an accurate medical definition covering both injury and symptoms. Our aim is to achieve that objective, but to what extent we achieve it by incorporating the definition in the Bill is not a matter on which I would take a final position."
  • Amendment 4, moved by Shadow Justice Spokesperson Lord Beecham (Labour) sought to confine the definition of whiplash to neck injuries alone. Lord Beecham withdrew the amendment following debate.
  • Amendment 6, proposed by Lord McKenzie of Luton (Labour), was proposed to suggest that regulations could be informed by review of relevant changes in motor vehicle technology and driving techniques conducted from time to time. He cited the European Commission's proposed regulations for the mandatory fitting of autonomous emergency braking systems as an example of such a change. Responding for the Government, Lords Ministry of Justice Spokesperson Lord Keen of Elie said: "We propose that the definition should be set out in regulations that can be amended and, in any event, allowing for the suggestion that there should be a more extensive definition in the Bill, it would be essential that there should be the means to amend that definition rapidly in response to changing conditions, and to do so by way of regulations."
  • Amendment 23, moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green (Labour) on behalf of his colleague Lord Berkeley, was intended to focus debate on the exclusion of vulnerable road users from the definition of whiplash and the reforms in the Bill.
  • A number of further amendments tabled by Lord Sharkey (Liberal Democrat) to encourage debate on the proposed tariffs for compensation in whiplash cases, and whether those tariffs should be based on Judicial College Guidelines.

Question or comments? Contact the Public Affairs team at or 020 7320 5858.

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