The House of Lords has voted to delay the implementation of the Draft Tax Credits (Income Thresholds and Determination of Rates) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 until reports on the impact of the changes have been presented to Parliament. The Regulations would reduce the income threshold for Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 (Transparency in Supply Chains) Regulations 2015 and accompanying Guidance have been approved by Parliament. The Regulations relate to section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which places a duty on companies above a certain size to produce an annual statement setting out steps taken to address slavery and human trafficking in supply chains.
The Justice Committee’s report on the impact of changes to civil legal aid under part 1 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 was the subject of a Westminster Hall debate on 15 October 2015.
The Chair and Commons members of the Joint Committee on Human Rights have been confirmed. The Chair, Harriet Harman, will be joined by Fiona Bruce, Karen Buck, Jeremy Lefroy, Mark Pritchard and Amanda Solloway.
The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has announced that it will hold its annual scrutiny session with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman early in the new year.
The Attorney General has appeared for the Government before the European Court of Human Rights in a case which looks at whether the UK sentencing system for whole life sentences gives an adequate mechanism for review of such sentences.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that there was no violation of Article 5 in a case concerning the arrest and detention of three Pakistani nationals in the context of a counter-terrorism operation. National security considerations justified restrictions on the applicants’ right to adversarial proceedings.
The ECJ has ruled that the “safe harbour” framework agreed by the EU and US in 2000, under which multinational companies were permitted to hold personal data in the US concerning European nationals despite the personal data protection rules in the US being weaker than those in the EU, was invalid.
A study has been published by the Public Law Project and the University of Essex looking at the use and effects of judicial review in England and Wales. The study found that there are a number of pervasive misconceptions about judicial review, including that there is widespread misuse of the system; that it prevents public bodies from efficiently delivering services; and that it tends to be expensive and time consuming but rarely alters decisions. The study made a number of findings challenging these assumption, including that claimants gained a wide range of tangible benefits and that judgments are seen to have a significant impact on policy and the development of the law.
A new report has been published by JUSTICE, the Bingham Centre and the Public Law Project on judicial review and the rule of law in the context of Part 4 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. The objective of Part 4 is to deter judicial review proceedings which are either wholly or partially abusive. However, it attracted opposition during its passage through Parliament from members of both Houses who felt that it was unnecessary and that it went too far in creating deterrence. The report provides guidance to those affected by the provisions of the Act so as to minimise interference with the rule of law.
Harriet Harman has written to the Justice Secretary as Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, setting out questions which the Committee is keen to explore in relation to the Government’s intended repeal of the Human Rights Act. These include whether or not the Government intends to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights; whether the UK will continue to be obliged to abide by judgments of the Strasbourg court; and what approach the Government intends to take with respect to the devolved administrations.
Legal aid & access to justice
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a report examining the impact on equality and human rights of recent changes – including reductions to the scope of civil legal aid, the Exceptional Cases Funding scheme, reforms to judicial review and the introduction of employment tribunal fees – affecting access to civil law justice. The report’s findings suggest that these reforms have particularly affected disabled people, women and people from ethnic minorities.
The Northern Ireland Justice Department is seeking views on the second part of its Access to Justice Review. The Review aims to build on reforms introduced following the first Access to Justice Review and to identify further improvements to the system. The closing date ford submissions is 9 February 2016.
It has been reported that a whistle-blower at the Legal Aid Agency has alleged that the procurement process for duty provider contracts was flawed.
Immigration and asylum
The Law Centres network has published a report calling for the interests of children in the asylum system to be better protected. The report makes recommendations on improving the asylum process and the training and skills of those working with children.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman has published a report on failures by the Home Office in handling immigration complaints. Delays and poor decision making were the most common reasons for complaints to be upheld, and the Home Office and its agencies had more complaints upheld in the past year than any other public sector organisation.
A statement of changes to the Immigration Rules has been laid before Parliament by the Home Secretary. The changes affect refugees, applications for Administrative Review and knowledge of language and life tests.
An ESRC funded research project on ombudsmen in Europe has published a report on the UK’s public and private sector ombudsmen. The report is based on recent ombudsman users’ responses to a survey sent out by ADR bodies. The data revealed a stark divide between the experiences of users of public-sector ombudsmen and that of users of private-sector ombudsmen. Public sector users were significantly less likely to be satisfied with the way their cases had been dealt with, to report a favourable outcome, and to perceive the process as fair.
The Finance Committee of the National Assembly for Wales is consulting on the draft Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill. The deadline for submissions is 18 January 2016.