The Women and Equalities Committee has published a report on Women in the House of Commons after the 2020 election. The report makes a number of recommendations, aimed at Parliament, political parties and Government, on how to increase the number of women MPs at the next general election.
The Committee has also launched a new inquiry into fathers and the workplace. This inquiry follows on from the Committee’s report on the Gender Pay Gap, which found that sharing care between parents is key to reducing differences in pay.
As part of its inquiry into the legislative process, the Constitution Committee has heard evidence from a number of experts, including MPs, Parliamentary Counsel, and the Law Commission. It has also heard evidence o the use of technology in the legislative process. The Committee’s inquiry into the legislative process follows its 2004 report on Parliament and the Legislative Process. The inquiry is being conducted in four stages: preparing legislation for introduction in Parliament; the Passage of legislation through Parliament; the delegation of powers; and after Royal Assent.
Following a hearing before the Health and Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committees, meeting jointly, the two Committees have endorsed the appointment of Rob Behrens as Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
The Communities and Local Government Select Committee has endorsed the appointment of Michael King as the new Local Government Ombudsman, succeeding Jane Martin following her retirement.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights has published a report on the human rights implications of Brexit. The report says the Government must not use fundamental rights as a bargaining chip, and should give an undertaking to protect the residency rights of EU nationals in the UK.
The Justice Committee has heard evidence in its inquiry into the implications of Brexit for the justice system. On 20 December the Committee heard evidence from legal experts on the implications for civil justice, and on 10 January it heard from criminal law experts on EU mechanisms for policing and judicial cooperation.
The CJEU has given judgment in relation to a challenge to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2016 brought by Tom Watson MP (and originally David Davis), which may have implications for the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. The Court found that general and indiscriminate retention of emails and electronic communications by governments is illegal. Liberty has announced that it will launch a legal challenge to the IPA and has been seeking to crowd-source funding.
The Supreme Court is expected to hand down judgment in the Miller case on 24 January, confirming whether or not Parliament has a role to play in triggering Article 50.
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has found that whole life sentences do not amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the Belhaj family can bring a case against the British Government relating to claims that they were unlawfully returned to Libya with the help of MI6, where they were tortured by the Gaddafi regime. The Government had sought to resist the claim on the basis of the doctrine of ‘state immunity’.
Equality and discrimination
The Scottish Government has announced the creation of a new working group, which will aim to improve the approach to pregnancy and maternity in the workplace. The group will begin by devising guidelines for tackling pregnancy and maternity discrimination and encouraging best practice.
The National Audit Office (NAO) has published its report into its investigation into HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) contract with Concentrix. The three-year contract, signed in May 2014, was to provide additional capacity and analysis to review and correct personal tax credit payments. The contract did not work as HMRC intended and, in November 2016 HMRC and Concentrix agreed to terminate it and a number of Concentrix staff transferred over to HMRC. The investigation looked at the aims and management of the contract; the decision to terminate it; and the impact of the contract termination.
See above under UK Parliament for new appointments to PHSO and LGO.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has published report on Complaints about UK government departments and agencies, and some UK public organisations, 2015-16. The report found that three in four complaints about the Home Office are upheld, with the main reasons being incorrect decisions, delays and wrong advice.
The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee held a one-off evidence session on the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) report Driven to despair: How drivers have been let down by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.
The Scottish Government has announced that it will make use of new social security powers under the Scotland Act 2016 by introducing increased flexibility in Universal Credit payments. Tenants will have the option of having the housing element paid directly to landlords, and new applicants will be able to opt to receive payments every two weeks, rather than monthly.
The Welsh Government has announced funding of £7.8 million for the Homelessness Prevention Programme for 2017/18. The grant supports Local Authorities and third sector organisations to deliver front line services to prevent homelessness.
Reports and publications
The Legal Aid Group has published a report on the decline of civil legal aid in England and Wales. The report identified “dire legal consequences of civil legal aid cuts for access to justice and associated knock-on costs in other public services”. It also makes a number of recommendations for Government, including the immediate commencement of the post-implementation review of LASPO.
The Scottish Government has published the third annual report on the revised Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland. It measures progress against 37 indictors of child poverty.
Reform Scotland has published a report, The Early Years Lottery, on nursery and pre-school provision in Scotland. The report responds to a Scottish Government consultation “A blueprint for 2020: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland”.