The House of Lords Select Committee on the Equality Act 2010 has published a report on the impact of the Act on disabled people. The report concludes that Government inaction is letting down disabled people, and that changes to legal aid and tribunal fees have created barriers to the effective enforcement of disabled people’s rights.
The Public Accounts Committee has published a report concluding that companies carrying out health and disability assessments are failing to meet acceptable performance standards. The report found that there are unacceptable local and regional variations in contractor performance, and a lack of transparency meaning that claimants do not have a clear expectation of the service they can expect.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Women and Equalities Committee have held a pre-appointment hearing with the Government’s preferred candidate to become chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, David Isaac. The Committees are now seeking further oral evidence on the extent to which the issue of a potential conflict of interest was raised during the appointment process, in light of Mr Isaac’s position as a senior equity partner at Pinsent Masons.
The Foreign Affairs Committee has published a report which concludes that there is a clear perception that the human rights work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been deprioritised.
The Finance Committee of the Welsh Assembly has published its report on the consultation on the draft Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill, recommending that a future Committee of the National Assembly for Wales should introduce the Bill as soon as possible in the Fifth Assembly.
The European Court of Human Rights has concluded that the criminal justice and prosecutorial system in the UK did not undermine the investigation into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes on the London Underground following the terrorist attacks of July 2015. The Court concluded that all aspects of the authorities’ responsibility for the shooting had been thoroughly investigated.
The Court of Appeal has dismissed a claim for compensation from two men who served long sentences before their convictions were overturned. The CA concluded that the fact that they were not entitled to compensation did not breach the presumption of innocence required by Article 6(2) of the ECHR.
The European and External Relations Committee of the Scottish Parliament has written to the Justice Secretary Michael Gove regarding its inquiry into implications for Scotland of the UK Government’s proposals for a British Bill of Rights. The Committee highlighted the fact that there is strong opposition from Scottish stakeholders to any repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998, as they did not believe that there was any evidence for doing so and believe that any human rights reforms should build on and strengthen the Act.
Barrister Martha Spurrier has been named Director of Liberty following the departure of former Director Shami Chakrabarti. Spurrier was formerly at Doughty Street Chambers, where she specialised in defending access to justice and the rights of women, children and disabled people.
Marie Anderson, former Deputy Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, has been appointed as the new Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman, with an expanding remit and wider powers. The Office of the Norther Ireland Public Services Ombudsman has been created with the aim of making it easier for the public to complain about public services and at increasing the public accountability of public service providers.
Eddie Lynch has been appointed as the new Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland.
The Government has confirmed Elizabeth Denham as its preferred candidate to replace Christopher Graham as Information Commissioner. Denham has held a number of senior leadership positions in the field of information rights in Canada, and currently serves as the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia.
The Government has published a white paper containing proposals for reform of the education system. As well as setting out plans for all schools to become academies, it proposes a single route for escalating any complaints about the maladministration of appeals to a public service ombudsman.
Iain Duncan Smith has resigned from his post as Work and Pensions Secretary citing the cuts to disability benefits announced in the Budget. He objected in particular to the cuts being presented as part of a Budget that benefitted higher earning taxpayers. The Government subsequently indicated that it would reconsider the proposed reductions in personal independence payments (PIP). Stephen Crabb has replaced Duncan Smith as Work and Pensions Secretary.
The Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated that the cost of recruiting presenting officers to support the DWP in PIP and employment and support allowance tribunals from 2016-2018 will be £22m.
Reports and consultations
The Low Commissioner has launched a manifesto for advice services in Wales, hoping to build on the progress made in establishing the National Advice Network.
The Government has published a revised set of consultation principles which it says reflect comments from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and demonstrate a desire to engage more effectively with the public. This follows a number of successful judicial review challenges concerning the fairness of the consultation process.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a report on pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace. It makes a number of recommendations, including improving information and advice services, and improving access to justice by making changes to the tribunal fee system. The Government has published a response to the report.
The Home office has published enforcement instructions and guidance documents on administrative and criminal powers for officers dealing with immigration enforcement matters within the UK.
The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has published his inspection plan for the next three years. The aim of the plan is to provide a better sense of the overall shape and range of the ICIBI’s inspection programme, how the planned inspections fit together thematically, and when particular topics will be examined.