The Investigatory Powers Bill has entered its final stage and is now ping ponging between the Lords and the Commons. The Commons accepted the majority of the Lords amendments, which were tabled by the Government and were aimed at adding or strengthening safeguards. The Commons rejected amendments tabled by Baroness Hollins, with cross party support, which sought to implement one of the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry. The amendments would replicate provisions in the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which have not yet been commenced, with the effect that publishers that did not join a recognised regulator would be required to pay claimants’ costs in civil claims relating to phone hacking, even if the claimant lost.
The Criminal Finances Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons on 25 October. The Bill would amend the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and introduce new offences aimed at improving the UK’s response to tax evasion schemes, money laundering and corruption.
The Wales Bill is currently in committee stage in the House of Lords. The Bill would implement a number of agreed changes to the devolution settlement, replacing the current conferred powers model with a reserved powers model. It would include a declaration that the UK Parliament would not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters without consent of the Assembly.
The Government suffered a defeat in the Lords on the Children and Social Work Bill. The Lords voted to delete a clause that would have enabled ministers to give councils approval to suspend specific social care obligations.
A Private Member’s Bill aimed at securing pardons for those convicted under historic homosexuality laws had its second reading in the House of Commons on 21 October. The Bill’s progress was blocked by the Justice Minister Sam Gyimah, who spoke for so long that it ran out of time. The Government are supporting a more limited measure in the Policing and Crime Bill, which would pardon only those who are dead, while those living would have to apply to the Home Office.
The Justice Committee has published a report on the treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system. The report concluded that the system does not adequately address the needs of young adults, and recommended a new approach based on a better understanding of the distinct characteristics of this group.
The Justice Committee has also announced a new inquiry into the implications of Brexit for the justice system.
The Government has responded to the Justice Committee’s report on court and tribunal fees. In response to the Committee’s recommendation that the Government should publish data from its post-implementation review of employment tribunal fees, the Government stated that it will publish the outcome of the review ‘in due course’ and any proposals for adjusting the current scheme of fees and remissions will be set out for public consultation.
The Work and Pensions Committee has published a report into intergenerational unfairness in relation to state pensions. The report recommends that the state pension “triple-lock” should be abandoned, on the basis that it will exacerbate existing unfairness to the younger generation.
The Communities and Local Government Committee has endorsed the appointment of the Government’s preferred candidate, Michael King, for Local Government Ombudsman.
The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has announced that the Government propose to derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights when involved in overseas armed conflict in the future. This will help to reduce “vexatious claims” against the armed forces, Mr Fallon suggested.
The High Court has ruled that the Government must seek the approval of Parliament before triggering Article 50. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the appeal during the week of 5-8th December.
Court of Session has allowed the Humanist Society of Scotland to bring a judicial review into the rights of pupils to opt out of religious observance in schools.
The owners of a bakery in Belfast have lost their appeal against a judgment that found that their refusal to bake a cake for a customer in support of gay marriage was discriminatory.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the application of the so-called bedroom tax is discriminatory in certain cases, including in relation to one claimant whose disability meant that she could not share a bedroom with her husband.
Immigration & Asylum
Section 63 of the Immigration Act 2016 will come into force on 1 December 2016, introducing a power for the Home Secretary to remove a person who pursues a human rights appeal even while the appeal is pending.
Police & Prisons
The Home Secretary has announced that there will not be an inquiry into the so-called battle of Orgreave. She said that there was insufficient basis to instigate such a review, given that there were no deaths or wrongful convictions.
The Justice Secretary has announced plans for prison reform, including the recruitment of additional prison officers and giving governors greater responsibility for decision making and budgets. There will also be investment in new prisons and a number of closures.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has published a report on failings by the DVLA in assessing people’s fitness to drive. The report focused on a number of complaints brought by people with complex medical conditions and disabilities who were unfairly left without driving licenses for long periods of time as a result of flawed decisions and delays.
Amnesty International has published the results of a study on the impact of legal aid cuts in England on access to justice. The report concluded that the changes have created a two-tier justice system which the poor cannot afford.
Equality and discrimination
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a research report on the financial costs of pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination and disadvantage. The report estimated the total costs to women, employers and the state with respect to women who were forced to leave their jobs or who suffered other financial loss as a result of having children.
The Government has responded to the recent report of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The report focused on the impact of legislation and policies on persons with disabilities and their rights to live independently and as part of the community. The Government said that it strongly disagreed with the report’s conclusion that there is evidence of grave and systematic violations of the rights of disabled people.
Reports & publications
The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales has published his report for 2016.
The Scottish Information Commissioner has published an annual report and accounts for 2015/16.
A Scottish Social Attitudes report on attitudes to discrimination and positive action has been published by the Scottish Government. The report looks at the extent of discriminatory attitudes in Scotland, support for positive action aimed at achieving equality, and how attitudes have changed over time.
The Care Quality Commission has published a report on the state of health care and adult social care in England 2015/16.
The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford has published a report on A Decade of Immigration in the British Press. The report analyses trends in the language used in newspaper reporting and considers how this relates to the political context.
Legal aid statistics for April to June 2016 have been published by the Ministry of Justice.
The safety in custody quarterly bulletin, covering deaths, self-harm and assaults in prisons has also been published covering the period to June 2016.
The deadline for responding to part of the ‘Transforming our justice system’ consultation has been extended. Submissions on panel composition in tribunals are welcomed until 24 November.
The Northern Ireland Civil and Family Justice Review Group is inviting views on its draft civil justice report until 9 December. The report makes a number of recommendations aimed at improving access to civil justice, including a move towards paperless courts, promoting ADR, and the creation of a Civil Justice Council.