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Restoring credibility to human rights

13 May 2016

Alexandra Cardenas considers the parliamentary debate on the European Convention of Human Rights and discusses the Anti-Corruption Summit.

Parliament entered prorogation on Thursday, a suspension of business that marks the end of the parliamentary session before the Queen's Speech on Wednesday 18 May. As usual, we will monitor the Queen's Speech and update you on the main announcements. The debate on issues such as home, legal and constitutional affairs will also take place next week in both Houses.

In the meantime, please find below a summary of this week's key political developments and announcements of interest to the Law Society.

Monday 9 May


House of Commons: parliamentary debate on the European Convention of Human Rights

The UK’s membership of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was discussed in a debate in the House of Commons. Human rights minister Dominic Raab confirmed that the government has no plans to withdraw from the ECHR. However, he insisted that the government intends to restore some credibility to human rights, which many people increasingly view "an industry or bandwagon for lawyers, rather than a tradition to take pride in".

Read the debate in full 

House of Lords: EU Justice Committee's report on the government's proposal to introduce a UK Bill of Rights

The EU Justice Committee published its report highlighting that the evidence they received makes "a forceful case" for the government to think again on the policy. According to the report, the government's proposals will not depart significantly from the existing Human Rights Act, making the necessity of a Bill of Rights unclear and damaging the UK's moral authority internationally. The report also highlights the risk of constitutional upheaval with the devolved nations, with the consequence that the proposed UK Bill of Rights could end up as an English Bill of Rights.

Read the report in full (PDF)

Tuesday 10 May


House of Commons: written answers on clinical negligence

Labour MP Helen Jones asked Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state for health, several questions about clinical negligence cases and the publication of medical records. Specifically, she asked:

1. What percentage of clinical negligence cases dealt with by the NHS Litigation Authority are discovered to be unfounded after the release of medical records

2. What estimate has been made of the costs to the NHS Litigation Authority of late release of medical records where those records reveal a case to be unfounded; and if a statement will be made

3. What steps are being taken to ensure that (a) hospitals and (b) GPs release medical records required in clinical negligence cases within appropriate time limits

Quality care minister Ben Gummer answered by saying that the timetable for the release of medical records in clinical negligence cases is determined by the Pre Action Protocol for clinical negligence claims. This prescribes 40 days for the release of the records, or the ability to request an extension to that time. 

The NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) works with National Health Service trusts to ensure prompt release of medical records and other information which will inform the outcome of a claim for compensation. Often expert evidence will be required to give conclusive evidence as to whether there was negligence and, if so, whether that caused injury to the claimant. As claims are often resolved in-house by the NHSLA, any costs which arise as a result of delays in receiving medical records are not recorded separately as they will fall within overall administration costs. 

46 per cent of claims were resolved without payment of damages in 2014/15; however, as above, it is often necessary to obtain expert medical advice to determine whether compensation is due.

Wednesday 11 May

Nothing to report.

Thursday 12 May


Anti-Corruption Summit

In response to the recent Panama Papers scandal, prime minister David Cameron hosted an international Anti-Corruption Summit with the aim of stepping up global action to expose and punish corruption. The Summit brought together over 50 countries, including the United States, Italy, Norway, Afghanistan and Colombia to discuss what further global action can be taken. The UN, World Bank, OECD and the IMF were also represented at the Summit. 

See a list of commitments made at the Summit

Friday 13 May

Nothing to report.

Tags: politics | Westminster weekly update | European Union | British Bill of Rights | human rights | Parliament | Brexit

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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