Administrative and public law

Westminster weekly update: bill of rights published

Your weekly update from the Law Society’s public affairs team on all the latest developments and debates in Parliament and across Whitehall.

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What you need to know

1. Bill of rights published

The long-trailed bill of rights was published by the government on Wednesday 22 June.

The bill will repeal and replace the Human Rights Act 1998 and make a number of changes to the domestic human rights framework.

Among the major provisions in the bill is the creation of a permission stage for human rights claims. This will prevent people from pursuing a claim unless they can show that they would face “serious disadvantage”.

Other provisions will prevent courts from placing “positive obligations” on public authorities to protect human rights, and make it harder for foreign national offenders to use human rights law to avoid deportation.

We have stated the bill “would grant the state greater unfettered power over the people” and “create an acceptable class of human rights abuses in the United Kingdom”.

The bill comes on the back of an independent review which concluded that there was no case for repealing the Human Rights Act, and a government consultation which found limited support for many of the proposals in the bill.

Read our response to the bill

Read more about human rights reform

2. Law Society celebrates Justice Week in parliament

On Monday 20 June the Law Society joined forces with the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) to celebrate Justice Week by holding a reception in parliament.

The event provided a great opportunity for promoting the contribution legal services make to the UK:

  • £60 billion gross value added to the economy
  • 552,000 people it employed

It also served as a platform to raise shared concerns over criminal legal aid and the government’s proposals on Human Rights Act reform.

The event was attended by parliamentarians from both the House of Commons and House of Lords. Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Raab, Justice Ministers Victoria Atkins and James Cartlidge, and Solicitor General Alex Chalk all came along to talk with representatives of the legal sector. The reception was sponsored by Lord Hunt of Wirral, Co-Chair of the APPG on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

There were several speeches during the event. Lord Wirral and the Chair of the Justice Select Committee, Sir Bob Neill, spoke about the importance of supporting the justice system to ensure it remains sustainable. Sir Bob’s speech also highlighted the importance of standing up for lawyers when they face attacks simply for doing their job.

Stephanie Boyce, Our president, Mark Fenhalls, Chair of the Bar Council, and Professor Chris Bones, Chair of CILEX, all addressed the attendees to reiterate the value of the legal sector and the need for close collaboration with parliamentarians.

3. Conservatives lose two by-elections

The Conservative Party suffered two significant defeats in by-elections that took place on Thursday 23 June. Labour won in Wakefield, a seat that has been described as part of the ‘red wall’. The Liberal Democrats took Tiverton and Honiton, a traditionally safe Conservative seat in southwest England.

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, pointed to the cost of living crisis as the cause of the defeats, and noted that generally governments tend to lose by-elections. He committed to doing more to “reflect on where voters are” and to keep going to address the concerns of people.

The Conservative Party Chairman, Oliver Dowden, resigned following the results. He said that “it would not be right for me to remain in office” following the two electoral defeats. Dowden said in his resignation letter it was important someone took responsibility for the outcome.

Coming up

The Law Society will be working closely with MPs and peers to influence a number of bills and inquiries:

If you made it this far...

Check out this article in the Gazette by our President Stephanie Boyce. She argues that the SRA’s fining powers increase should not be conflated with the sanction’s regime.

The SRA is seeking an increase to its fining powers in relation to firms and individuals from £2,000 to £25,000, representing an increase of 1,150%.

We have made clear that it considers this increase to be too high. We believe this would make serious inroads into the role of the SDT and would risk the development of two separate approaches to policy on the imposition of penalties.

Our comments were also picked up by The Times.

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