Alexandra Cardenas discusses the Policing and Crime Bill and considers a question around the independence of the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Government departments are still in purdah before the EU referendum on 23 June, and Parliament went to recess this week. However, Parliament will be recalled on Monday in mark of respect to Jo Cox MP who was murdered in her constituency on Thursday.
On Monday, Report Stage (day two) and the Third Reading of the Policing and Crime Bill took place in the House of Commons. The bill passed third reading without a division and it now moves to the House of Lords for further consideration.
The Justice Select Committee has announced that the long-awaited report on courts and tribunals fees will be published on Monday 20 June.
Monday 13 June
House of Commons:
Policing and Crime Bill: Third Reading
Report Stage (day two) and the Third Reading of the Policing and Crime Bill took place in the House of Commons. The bill passed third reading without a division and it now moves to the House of Lords for further consideration.
Tuesday 14 June
House of Commons:
Questions to the secretary of state for justice took place. Several issues were raised including employment tribunals, the Human Rights Act, legal aid, and personal injury reform. A further topical question was asked by Maggie Throup MP on the independence of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Please find a summary below:
Conservative MP Maggie Throup asked a question about the systematic failure of the SRA. In particular, she was concerned about the 'self-governing SRA' and called for improved accountability to restore public confidence.
Courts and legal aid minister Shailesh Vara MP stated that the SRA is an independent body. He said he would be happy to meet her on this issue.
Employment tribunal fees
Labour MP Dawn Butler and SNP MP Angela Crawley asked what progress the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) was making on its review of employment tribunal fees. Both questions focused on the disproportionate impact the fees were having on women, citing the large disparity in cases brought between 2013 and 2015.
The minister for human rights and civil liberties Dominic Raab MP reiterated the government's line that the review will report in due course. He said it is only fair that the cost, approximately £71 million per year, should not be paid by the taxpayer - he said his department is seeking to move people away from making claims and towards conciliation services.
Labour MP John Cryer pressed the minister further, stating that many of his constituents will not pursue a tribunal claim with fees being a deterrent. Raab again cited the importance of using alternative dispute settlements.
Human rights and the British Bill of Rights
Labour MP Catherine McKinnell and SNP MP Margaret Ferrier asked the minister what progress the MoJ was making at reforming the Human Rights Act (HRA). Dominic Raab MP responded saying that good progress has been made with the British Bill of Rights with input across the industry, the legal sector and academia.
Personal injury claims
Labour MP Mary Glindon asked what impact the planned changes to personal injury law and whiplash claims will have on access to justice. Minister Shailesh Vara responded by stating that the government remained concerned by the cost and volume of whiplash claims on driving up insurance premiums, and confirmed that there will be a consultation accompanied by a thorough impact assessment. He also said that the government intends to halve the £2 billion annual cost of whiplash claims to the insurance industry, which will lower each driver’s insurance premium by £50.
Conservative MP David Mowat referred to the statistics that show that in the UK, 80 per cent of road traffic accidents generate a whiplash claim, whereas in France only 3 per cent does. He also stated that while in the UK whiplash claims are increasing as accidents decrease, in France, it is the other way round. He concluded by stating that insurance premiums in the UK are 50 per cent higher than in France, pricing many people out. Vara assured the House that the reforms should remedy this.
Wednesday 15 June
Written answer: small claims
Conservative MP Julian Sturdy asked what reason the government is proposing to raise the small claims limit to £5,000 rather than to £3,000.
Human rights minister Dominic Raab MP said that the government is determined to crack down on the compensation culture and has announced reforms, including raising the small claims limit, to tackle the problem. He added: '£5,000 is considered to be the appropriate level for the small claims limit and the rationale for this will be set out in the consultation document which will be published in due course'.
Thursday 16 June
Both Houses are in recess.
Friday 17 June
Both Houses are in recess.