The start of the parliamentary week had the Treasury Sub-Committee scheduled to take evidence on the conduct of tax enquiries and resolution of tax disputes with representations being made by Reed Smith LLP and Capital Law.
Christina Blacklaws became the 174th president of the Law Society of England and Wales last Wednesday. The Law Society’s new President began her first full week in office by chairing the first Law Tech Delivery Panel, the government-backed industry-led delivery panel to boost new legal technologies. The group will provide direction to the legal sector and help foster an environment in which new technology can thrive. Christina also met with the Lord Chancellor yesterday, as part of her introductory meetings with government ministers.
The start of the parliamentary week had the Treasury Sub-Committee scheduled to take evidence on the conduct of tax enquiries and resolution of tax disputes with representations being made by Reed Smith LLP and Capital Law. On Tuesday morning, Justice Questions took place during which the Justice Secretary was questioned on changes to the small claims limit and cuts to legal aid. Meanwhile the Bill Committee continues to review the clauses contained in the Counter Terrorism and Border Security Bill at the Bill’s 9th and 10th sittings. On Wednesday, the International Trade Committees questioned the Trade Secretary, Liam Fox on the work of the Department for International Trade.
On Monday last week, peers debated the Lords EU Committee’s report on UK-EU relations after Brexit. The Law Society submitted written evidence under this inquiry, and briefed peers ahead of the debate. The Law Society’s concerns about judicial co-operation were mentioned in the debate by Labour’s Shadow Brexit spokesperson, Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town.
The following day, the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill had its fifth sitting at Public Bill Committee stage. Richard Atkinson, Co-Chair of the Law Society’s Criminal Law Committee previously gave evidence to the Committee and our evidence was referenced twice during the session. Also on Tuesday, the Home Affairs select committee published their report on Windrush. The report covers the government’s response to the scandal, lessons for the future and other groups of people who are also experiencing problems with the immigration system.
On Wednesday the Justice Minister Lucy Frazer QC MP made a written statement in Parliament and laid before Parliament legislation reducing court fees for certain proceedings in the civil courts and the Court of Protection in England and Wales. The Counter Terrorism Bill’s sixth sitting was held on Thursday, amendments on accessing to a lawyer were moved and as a result there were several mentions of the Law Society’s evidence.
This week in Parliament
Monday 09 July
House of Commons
- Treasury Sub-Committee - Oral Evidence Session
The conduct of tax enquiries and resolution of tax disputes
- Housing, Communities and Local Government - Oral Evidence Session: Priorities for the Secretary of State
Tuesday 10 July
House of Commons
- Oral questions - Justice (including Topical Questions) Justice Select Committee oral evidence session on the work of the Law Commission with the Chairman and the Chief Executive of the Law Commission.
- Public Bill Committee: Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill - 7th sitting
House of Lords
- Legislation - Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary & Functions of Staff) Bill [HL] - Committee - Lord Keen of Elie
Wednesday 11 July
House of Commons
- International Trade - Oral Evidence Session: The work of the Department for International Trade
- Foreign Affairs - Oral Evidence Session: The FCO’s human rights work
Thursday 12 July
House of Lords
- EU External Affairs Sub-Committee - Oral Evidence Session Brexit: customs arrangements
Last week in Parliament
Monday 02 July
House of Lords
Lords debate on EU Committee report: UK-EU relations after Brexit
Peers debated the Lords EU Committee’s report on UK-Eu relations after Brexit. The Law Society submitted written evidence under this inquiry, and briefed peers ahead of the debate.
The Law Society were mentioned once in the debate by Labour’s Shadow Brexit spokesperson Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, who said; 'the Law Society worries about judicial co-operation, the European arrest warrant and recognition of family judgments and calls for legal services to be included in any EU-UK trading arrangement, and for a dispute resolution and enforcement mechanism.'
The other key points from the debate included:
White Paper: Responding for the government, Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) Lord Callanan repeated the Prime Minister’s announcement that the government will publish the White Paper next week (w/c 9th July), and David Davis’ comment that it will offer 'detailed, ambitious and precise explanations of our positions… [setting out what] will change and what will feel different outside the EU.' Later in his remarks, Lord Callanan said the White Paper would provide more detail on the role of the EU Court of Justice with regard to UK membership of EU agencies.
Association Agreements: In response to several peers raising the issue of association agreements, Lord Callanan said the government were 'considering the merits and drawbacks of such an agreement.' He said association agreements had the merit of being understood by the EU given it was an established legal procedure, but had the drawback of it not being possible to agree things outside it. 'We are not ruling it out; we are exploring it and looking at whether it might be the appropriate model.' Lord Callanan added.
Security: Lord Callanan reiterated the government’s position on internal and external security co-operation with the EU. The Prime Minister had proposed a new treaty that would cover co-operation on law enforcement and criminal justice matters, including on extradition, co-operation with and through EU agencies and exchange of data. Lord Callanan said this treaty would need to respect the UK’s sovereign legal orders, would need to be supported by comprehensive data protection arrangements, and be adaptable enough to respond to emerging and future threats to common security interests. Lord Callanan added that the proposal was legally viable and had precedent in the comprehensive strategic relationships that exist between the EU and other third countries.
Government response: Lord Callanan also said the government were preparing their response to the Committee’s report, and that it would be published over the summer.
Tuesday 03 July
House of Commons
Bob Neill on FIFO at Treasury Questions
At Treasury Questions, Conservative MP and Justice Select Committee chair Bob Neill referenced the need for professional services to have fly-in fly-out provisions after Brexit.
Bob Neill MP said to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that businesses in his constituency 'want the ability to fly in key personnel across our EU markets to advise clients.'
- Agreeing with Neill, Philip Hammond MP replied that 'the views of business, which is the great generator of employment, wealth and prosperity in our country, should always be taken very carefully into account. We should listen to what business is telling us and make sure that we deliver a Brexit that delivers on the needs of business.''
Counter Terrorism and Border Security Bill: Committee Stage
The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill had its fifth sitting at Public Bill Committee stage. Richard Atkinson, Co-Chair of the Law Society’s Criminal Law Committee previously gave evidence to the Committee and our evidence was referenced twice during the session.
Amendments relating to the retention of biometric data were discussed as was the prevent strategy and terrorism reinsurance arrangements. You can read the session transcript and a summary is included below
Gavin Newland MP (SNP, Paisley and Renfrewshire North) spoke on amendments 14 - 20 which were tabled in his name and related to the governance and retention of biometrics. He referenced the concern shared by Richard Atkinson, Co-Chair of the Law Society’s Criminal Law Committee, who previously gave evidence to the committee and who had stated it is right that individuals’ data is not routinely withheld.
Nik Dakin MP (Labour, Scunthorpe) also reference Richard Atkinson’s evidence stating that any extension of time periods needed to be justified by objective evidence. Mr Dakin asked the Minister if there was further objective evidence to support his argument on extension of time periods. The Minister for Security and Economic Crime, Ben Wallace MP argued in response that five years gives investigators that extra time and some of these investigations take a lot of time.
Gavin Newlands MP said the Labour Front Bench has tabled an amendment that retains the Biometric Commissioner’s oversight, though it also retains the five years. Mr Newlands stated that he would be supporting the amendment put forward by the Labour Front Bench and for this reason he withdrew the amendment.
Home Affairs report on Windrush
The Home Affairs select committee published their report on Windrush. The report covers the government’s response to the scandal, lessons for the future and other groups of people who are also experiencing problems with the immigration system. Below is a summary of the Windrush report.
- The report welcomes the steps the government has taken to make it easier for people to apply for the documentation they need to evidence their lawful status in the UK. However, it also states it is not acceptable that members of the Windrush generation are still expected to pay fees for passports which may be crucial to them being able to access services to which they are entitled.
- The report concluded that the full compensation scheme, which must recognise both financial loss and emotional distress, should be established as soon as possible and payments made by the end of the year.
- The report recommends that the government should immediately clarify the scope of the compensation scheme, particularly with regard to Commonwealth citizens who arrived in the UK between 1973 and 1988; and children and grandchildren of the Windrush generation born in the UK. The Committee argued that as a minimum the scheme should be open to Windrush children and grandchildren who, on the balance of probabilities, were admitted for settlement before the 1988 Immigration Act came into force, and who have had to reapply for it.
Change in culture
- The report welcomes the pledges made by the Minister for Immigration and the previous and current Home Secretaries that Home Office culture will change. The report was supportive of a policy which will give the Home Office a more human face, a return to face-to-face interviews which allow for the use of discretion and judgement, and a system in which processes, requirements and decisions are more clearly explained. The Committee stated that these changes are overdue and they should be implemented as a priority.
- The report recommends that the right of appeal be reintroduced to all immigration routes. According to the report the reintroduction of appeal rights should be accompanied by the restoration of legal aid arrangements for immigration matters in order to allow those with complex cases the access to legal advice they need.
- The reports notes how complex British nationality law has become, the Committee recommend the Home Secretary establish a review and options for reform. The Committee said the review should pay particular attention to the impact of the British Nationality Act 1981 on descendants of the Windrush generation.
Wednesday 04 July
House of Commons
Justice Minister Lucy Frazer QC MP made a written statement in Parliament and laid before Parliament legislation reducing court fees for certain proceedings in the civil courts and the Court of Protection in England and Wales.
The statement says that this action follows a review by MoJ officials which identified a number of cases where the fees charged were above full cost recovery levels. A refund scheme will be established to reimburse people the amounts that they have been over-charged.
Read the written statement from Lucy Frazer QC MP and the regulations.
Thursday 05 July
House of Commons
Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Sixth sitting)
At the Bill’s sixth sitting amendments were raised on the non-suspicion part of the new powers as well as on the right to access to a lawyer. The Law Society’s evidence was referenced nine times during the session, including on three occasions by the Minister of State for Security.
You can read the transcript of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill session. A summary of the session is included below.
Nick Thomas- Symonds MP tabled amendment 44 to the Bill. This new clause would implement the recommendations of Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights and would require an officer to have reasonable grounds for suspecting an individual is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism before her or she could detain an individual for up to 6 hours under Schedule 7.
Nick Thomas- Symonds MP discussed how an examining officer may exercise the powers under schedule 3 whether or not there are grounds for suspecting that a person is or has been engaged in hostile activity. He pressed the Minister on the requirement that an officer have reasonable grounds for suspecting an individual. The Minister of State for Security, Ben Wallace MP argued the Law Society’s witness, Richard Atkinson, had said in his evidence that he had no concern about the suspicion part of the power. Mr Wallace said he thought it would be a setback for our national security and counter-terrorism work if the no-suspicion stop powers were removed.
Access to a lawyer
Gavin Newland MP moved amendment 21. This amendment would delete provisions in the Terrorism Act 2000 which restrict access to a lawyer for those detained under Schedule 7. Whilst introducing the amendment Mr Newlands noted that Richard Atkinson had stated that the schedule was of 'great concern' to him as it fundamentally undermined what he would consider to be a cornerstone of our justice system - legal professional privilege.
- Speaking on amendment 21, Mr Thomas-Symonds also commended the evidence of Richard Atkinson in terms of seeking practical solutions to deal with the government’s concerns and still maintain the right of legal professional privilege. He also noted that Mr Atkinson suggested several ways in which the balance could be maintained.
Mr Thomas-Symonds said the committee should turn their minds to finding a practical solution that maintains legal professional privilege.
- Responding to the proposed amendment, Mr Wallace said he agreed with opposition members that where an individual has been detained under those schedules and has requested to consult a solicitor, they should have the right to do so privately. He claimed in the vast majority of cases, there will be no reason to question that right. However, he added that on rare occasions, there might be a need for the examining officer or a more senior police officer to impose certain restrictions.
- The Security Minister specified that the powers are designed to be available only in specific and serious circumstances, namely where those detained seek to frustrate an examination, cause evidence to be interfered with or alert others who are in some way involved in an offence.
- In response, Mr Thomas-Symonds argued the professional code of conduct that lawyers have would prevent them in engaging in any illegal activity. He described how Richard Atkinson had said that where there is concern about an individual lawyer there is provision for the suspect to have the consultation with that lawyer delayed but to be offered the services of another lawyer in the meantime.
Mr Wallace addressed the point by saying that schedule 3 would allow use of the power only when an officer at least of the rank of commander, or assistant chief constable, has reasonable grounds for believing that allowing the examinee to exercise his or her right to consult a solicitor privately will have certain serious consequences. The Minister also made a distinction between a police station and a border security stop and the admissibility of verbal discussion as evidence in court.
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