Alexandra Cardenas details the swearing in of Liz Truss, the first female lord chancellor, and highlights other new legal ministerial briefs.
It is four weeks to the day since the UK voted to leave the European Union, and we have seen a remarkable turnaround for the British government, with a new Prime Minister, entire cabinet and wider ministerial team, and two brand new government departments in place.
The Prime Minister has been visiting Berlin and Paris for some early meetings to set the tone for the rest of the Brexit process. Many see that there must be some grounds for optimism that we can depart the EU on good terms – though probably not ones which are as economically advantageous as the ones we have now. It was made clear by Mrs May to Angela Merkel that the UK would not be triggering Article 50 in 2016.
In Paris, President Francois Hollande said he recognised that the UK needed time to prepare but the sooner it triggered Article 50 the better. Though consistent with Ms Merkel’s position, but with clear proviso that France will not accept the UK sitting in a pre-Article 50 limbo forever.
At the end of this week we enter the Summer recess, where Parliament will break up until 5 September, where it will sit for two weeks before the political party conferences start later that month.
Monday 18 July
Nothing to report
Tuesday 19 July
House of Commons: written answer - employment tribunal fees and charges
Former justice minister Andy Slaughter (Labour) asked the secretary of state for justice when the Ministry of Justice plans to publish its review of employment tribunal fees.
Sir Oliver Heald QC, the minister of state for courts and justice, simply stated that his department expects to announce the conclusion of the review of employment tribunals fees in due course.
Wednesday 20 July
Nothing to report
Thursday 21 July
Ministry of Justice - Swearing in of the Lord Chancellor
Liz Truss, the first female lord chancellor, was sworn into office in the imposing surroundings of the lord chief justice’s court. Ms Truss, the former environment secretary, pledged to respect the rule of law, defend the independence of the judiciary and provide adequate resources for the courts.
Describing the occasion as “historic”, lord chief justice Lord Thomas said a “long-standing monopoly has been swept away, and it is plainly not before time”.
He told Ms Truss: “You are the first female lord chancellor. Today is an historic occasion. It marks another step in the evolution of your great office, one that has for so long formed and continues to form the fulcrum between the judiciary and government."
New ministerial briefs announced
The Ministry of Justice has finalised the briefs for its ministerial team - please click on the links below for their portfolios.
- Sir Oliver Heald QC MP is minister of state for courts and justice
- Sam Gyimah MP is parliamentary under secretary of state for prisons and probation
- Dr Phillip Lee MP is parliamentary under secretary of state for victims, youth and family justice
- Lord Keen QC is the MoJ spokesperson in the Lords
House of Lords: statutory instrument debate - Lords approve tribunal fees amendment order
Peers, led by the Advocate-General of Scotland, Lord Keen (Conservative), debated and approved the Civil Proceedings, First-tier Tribunal, Upper Tribunal and Employment Tribunals Fees (Amendment) Order 2016. We briefed Lord Keen prior to the debate (who requested a Parliamentary briefing note from us), and the Law Society was mentioned on a number of occasions, notably by Lord Beecham, who referenced our figures on the 600% in fees to the Immigration and Asylum Tribunals.
See the full debate.
Oral Questions to the Attorney General
Stephen Kinnock MP (Labour) asked the attorney general what his role is in assessing the steps that will be required to separate EU law from domestic law.
Responding, attorney general Jeremy Wright said he acted as the government’s principal legal adviser and noted that he had to be consulted before key decisions were taken. Mr Kinnock asked how much the lawyer and trade negotiators to help the UK leave the EU would cost. In reply, Mr Wright said the UK needed the best advice and that the Department for Exiting the European Union would provide an estimate when it could.
Labour MP Nick Thomas-Symonds said membership of the EU had brought about substantive enhancement of health and safety laws, and asked for assurances that the British Government would retain it. Responding, attorney general Jeremy Wright said many regulations should be retained, but said the review of regulation would be a “lengthy” process.
Shadow solicitor general Jo Stevens noted that leaving the EU would require the abolition of the European Communities Act and result in the abolition of secondary legislation underneath it. She asked about measures to protect some of these regulations. Responding, attorney general Jeremy Wright said that the government would want to retain some of the regulations, but added that it would take time which ones it wished to retain. He added that protection for those in employment was important.
Jeff Smith MP (Labour) asked the attorney general What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the decision to leave the EU on the protection of human rights.
Responding, attorney general Jeremy Wright said the best protection of rights was through UK law, and argued that leaving the EU would not damage rights. Following, Mr Smith asked whether leaving the ECHR was government policy. In reply, Mr Wright said it was too soon to speak on this issue.
Friday 22 July
Nothing to report