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Parliament in recess until September

25 July 2017

Both houses of parliament are now in recess on Thursday. They will return on Tuesday 5 September.

The Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom MP, announced that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will have its Second Reading on Thursday 7 and Monday 11 September.

Last week a debate on the personal injury discount rate took place in the House of Lords where the Law Society was mentioned three times. We briefed Lord Beecham, Shadow Justice Spokesperson, ahead of the debate and he supported an option whereby a panel of experts chaired by the Lord Actuary decided the discount rate, which is the Law Society's favoured option.

A Westminster Hall debate on combat compensation took place in the House of Commons. We briefed Wayne David MP, Shadow Defence Minister, ahead of the debate and our concerns on the extension of combat immunity and the duty of care were raised, including remarks by immediate past president Robert Bourns.

On Friday Downing Street announced that the Rt Hon the Baroness Hale of Richmond would become president of the Supreme Court on the retirement of the Rt Hon Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury in September. She is the first women to be appointed to this role. In our press release the president commented: "I am delighted to congratulate Lady Hale on her appointment to president of the Supreme Court. Not only does she have an outstanding legal mind, she has also campaigned for greater judicial diversity tirelessly and with good humour for many years".

Three other appointments as Justices of the Supreme Court were:

  • The Rt Hon Lady Justice Black DBE on the retirement of the Rt Hon Lord Toulson in July.
  • The Rt Hon Lord Justice Lloyd Jones on the retirement of the Rt Hon the Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony in September.
  • The Rt Hon Lord Justice Briggs on the retirement of the Rt Hon the Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury in September.

This week in Parliament

Summer recess

Last week in Parliament

Monday 17 July

Ministry of Justice published response to the tailored review of the LSB and OLC

The Ministry of Justice published its response to the tailored review of the Legal Services Board (LSB) and the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC).

The main conclusions of the review:

  • The functions of both the LSB and the OLC are still required by government and the current delivery models, as an Executive NDPB (LSB) and a statutory body (OLC), are the most appropriate for the organisations.
  • Although both organisations are generally operating efficiently and effectively, the review has made a number of recommendations to further improve performance and efficiency, as well as recommendations to improve the tripartite governance arrangements.

The key recommendations of the review:

  • The Competition and Markets Authority's Legal Services market study made recommendations to the LSB to oversee and report on frontline regulators implementation of remedies to improve consumer information and transparency. The LSB should enact these.
  • To ensure continued public and international confidence in the regulation of the legal sector, the LSB should use all of its powers to provide robust assurance on the separation of the frontline regulators from the representative functions of the Approved Regulators, including the use of its investigative powers where appropriate. Any changes, including those as a result of the review of internal governance rules, should be made within the existing legislative framework.
  • To ensure there is no perception that the LSB is carrying out actions beyond those necessary to fulfil its statutory functions, the LSB should:
    • clearly highlight on published research how that research links to its objectives and statutory functions
    • reflect further on its impact in its annual report, and visibly tie all work to either its statutory functions or the regulatory objectives.

Read the full response.

Tuesday 18 July

House of Lords

Lords debate on the personal injury discount rate

A motion to regret on the personal injury discount rate was moved by conservative peer Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts. We briefed Shadow Justice Spokesperson Lord Beecham ahead of the debate. During the debate, he raised our policy position, expressing support to it, and the Law Society was mentioned 3 times.

Lord Hodgson said:

  • Previous governments had decided not to change the rate because of the sensitivity of the issue and this had resulted in under-compensation for consumers.
  • The decision setting the discount rate at 0.75% was damaging to consumers and the public finances.
  • The discount rate should be renewed more frequently.

Responding for the government, Advocate General for Scotland Lord Keen of Elie said that:

  • The then Lord Chancellor had been fulfilling her legal obligations when she changed the discount rate in early 2017, and that the rate had remained unchanged for a number of years.
  • The consultation launched by the government was intended to ensure that "the way the rate is set is put on the firmest possible footing in future" while keeping true to the 100% principle.
  • Responses to the consultation were being considered.
  • Delaying the correction of the rate until after the consultation would have been against the legal duties of the Lord Chancellor, as she would have knowingly maintained an incorrect rate for a considerable period of time.

Speaking for the opposition, Shadow Justice Spokesperson Lord Beecham argued that:

  • The 2.5% rate had been inappropriate and that the insurance industry's opposition to the changes was driven by a desire for increased profits rather than because it would cause serious detriment.
  • Periodical payment orders could be beneficial, as highlighted by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. He mentioned the Law Society's view that the availability of a periodical payment order should not affect the discount rate or assume a greater propensity to take a greater investment risk.
  • He supported an option whereby a panel of experts chaired by the Lord Actuary decided the discount rate, which is the Law Society's favoured option.
  • The government should carry out a properly costed impact assessment and criticised use of secondary legislation.

Read the full debate.

Wednesday 19 July

Nothing to report.

Thursday 20 July

House of Commons

Westminster Hall debate on combat compensation

Mike Kane MP sponsored a Westminster Hall debate on the Better Combat Compensation consultation. We briefed Wayne David MP, Shadow Defence Minister, before the debatefollowing contact from his office. As a result, the Law Society was mentioned twice, and former President Robert Bourns was quoted.

The main points discussed:

  • Mike Kane MP (Lab) said that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was "trying to scrap its duty of care". He noted that without the duty of care, there wouldbe no incentive for the MoD to learn lessons or protect other members of the forces if this might cost them money.
  • He alsoasked whether the government thought that legislation to remove the duty of care would be compatible with Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).
  • He challenged the idea that judges were asked to "second-guess" the decisions of commanders on the ground in military operations and noted that there had not been a single court decisions that second-guesses a military decision on the ground.
  • He described extending combat immunity as a "massive step backwards", and quoted our briefing on some of the decisions that would be covered, such as procurement decisions made on Whitehall.
  • He pointed out failings in the current compensation scheme to consider mental capacity or brain damage. He said that the compensation changes should not be linked to the extension of combat immunity.
  • He pointed out that without legal advice, military personnel were being asked to assess the value of their own injuries or allow the MoD absolute discretion about the value of claims.
  • Wayne David MP, Shadow Minister for Defence, said that everyone wanted the best possible compensation for members of the armed forces, and that "all wanted justice to be done as expeditiously as possible".
  • Hequoted former Law Society President Robert Bourns' remarks in relation to the government's proposals.
  • He also urged the government to listen to the Law Society and to reconsider the proposals, to ensure the duty of care was protected.

Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, responded on behalf of the government. He made the following points:

  • The government was considering the responses to the consultation, but it would find it hard to accept maintaining access to the courts as an alternative to the enhanced compensation scheme.
  • Consultation responses confirmed the government's view that their proposals were fair. He expressed disappointment that the Labour Party manifesto opposed the proposals.
  • He agreed to meet Wayne David to discuss the proposals.

Read the full debate.

Written statement on update of Lugano and Hague Conventions

On Thursday, the Ministry of Justice published a written statement which outlined that they have opted in to EU Council decisions to:

  • Open negotiations between the EU (and Denmark) and the Lugano States to update the Lugano Convention.
  • Open negotiations on the Judgments Convention as part of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

They noted that opting in to the EU negotiating mandate does not commit the UK government to accede to any future convention.

Written statement on Home Buying Policy, Commonhold Law, and Protected Persons

Prime Minister's Office published a written statement on the Machinery of government Changes: Home Buying Policy, Commonhold Law, and Protected Persons , which moved responsibility for home buying policy, including estate agent regulation, from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to the Department for Communities and Local Government. The responsibility for commonhold law will also transfer from the Ministry of Justice to the Department for Communities and Local Government. These changes will be effective immediately.

Friday 21 July

Summer recess.

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