The Data Protection Bill has had its second reading in the House of Lords. The Bill will repeal and replace the Data Protection Act 1998; update the UK’s data protection regime; and help to ensure that the UK and EU regimes are aligned following the UK’s departure from the EU.
The Government has published a Draft Health Service Safety Investigations Bill. The draft bill proposes setting up the Health Service Safety Investigations Body to conduct investigations which focus on learning from patient safety incidents in the NHS.
A draft Bill to provide for an energy price cap has also been announced. The cap would apply to households in England, Wales and Scotland on Standard Variable Tariffs and other default tariffs. It would be a temporary measure, the need for which would be kept under review.
A new Interparliamentary Forum on Brexit has held its first meeting in the House of Lords, attended by parliamentarians from Westminster, Edinburgh and Cardiff. It was the first of what is intended to be a series of regular interparliamentary meetings as the process develops, to support more effective scrutiny of the Government’s handling of Brexit.
The Treasury Committee has launched a new inquiry into the Student Loan system. It will look at the repayment threshold, interest rates, tuition fees, and the impact on university finances. The inquiry is currently accepting written submissions.
The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee will continue an inquiry in to the work of the Civil Service, which was launched prior to the election. The inquiry will now focus more closely on how Ministers and civil servants work together in the context of the Civil Service’s capability and capacity to cope with Brexit. The deadline for written submissions is 1 December.
The High Court has held that the definition of torture used by the Home Office is unlawful. The issue arose in a case brought by Medical Justice concerning a group of unlawfully detained torture victims. The definition, used in the Home Office’s Adults at Risk policy, was applied so as to exclude cases of non-state torture.
The Home Office has published updated guidance on section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act, which requires businesses with a turnover of more than £36m to publish an annual ‘Transparency in supply chains’ statement, setting out the steps they have taken to ensure that there is no slavery in their supply chains.
The National Assembly for Wales has published the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill. The Bill is intended to replace existing legislation governing the functions of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales (‘the Ombudsman’) under the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Act 2005 (‘the 2005 Act’). Among the proposals are new powers for the Ombudsman to accept oral complaints; undertake own initiative investigations; investigate private medical treatment including nursing care in a public/private health pathway; and undertake a role in relation to complaints handling standards and procedures.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has launched a consultation on a new independent redress scheme for rail passengers. The consultation considers existing complaints procedures and seeks views on a voluntary binding ADR scheme for rail complaints. The Rail Delivery Group, working with others as part of an Ombudsman Task Force, has developed proposals which they envisage will see an ADR scheme for rail passengers introduced on a voluntary basis in early 2018. The deadline for responses is 7 November 2017.
Legal aid and access to justice
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has announced the second round of funding in its Legal Support Project. The EHRC is making nearly £500,000 available to help individuals who have experienced discrimination in education to pursue legal claims. The aims of the project are to increase access to justice for individuals and to gather information to help the EHRC undertake enforcement action or policy work in the area of discrimination in education. Legal representatives or advisors can request funding on behalf of individuals from 11 September 2017.
The Lord Chancellor has announced the appointment of Jo Hickman and Gareth Hughes to the Civil Justice Council. Jo Hickman is the Director of the Public Law Project; Gareth Hughes is the Chief Executive of Marston Holdings.
The Home Office has announced changes to the immigration policy for survivors of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Under the original policy, eligible foreign nationals affected by the fire with uncertain immigration status could be granted 12 months’ limited leave to remain in the UK. Under the new policy, those who previously qualified and who come forward before 30 November will be able to have their leave extended and to qualify for permanent residence after 5 years.
The Scottish Government’s housing minister, Kevin Stewart, has announced the launch of a Rental Income Guarantee Scheme to boost investment in private rented housing. The scheme would guarantee 50% of any gap between actual and projected rental income and is intended to reduce some of the risk to investors in the build-to-rent market.
Publications and resources
The Final Report of the Bach Commission, The Right to Justice, has been published. The report presents conclusions from the Commission’s two-year investigation of access to justice and legal aid. The Commission calls on the government and other political parties to ensure minimum standards on access to justice are upheld through a new Right to Justice Act and recommends establishment of a Justice Commission.
An updated list of online resources has been published on Mark Elliott’s Public Law for Everyone website. It serves as a guide to Twitter and blogs for students and others who are interested in law generally, and public law in particular, and its real-world application.
A primer on the digitalisation of tribunals has been published by Joe Tomlinson of the University of Sheffield. The primer seeks to set out a framework for understanding and assessing digital tribunals and outlines four important contexts:
- reforms to administrative justice and changes to tribunals;
- advances in e-government;
- developments in online dispute resolution; and
- the development of the Transforming Our Justice System proposals.
A new book on Administrative Justice in Wales and Comparative Perspectives (University of Wales Press) has been published, edited by Sarah Nason of the University of Bangor. The collection examines issues in administrative justice in Wales primarily in comparison to other UK jurisdictions, the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia. Included is discussion of system design and how parts of the administrative justice system – commissioners, tribunals, ombuds – can work together. An overview of the book is available here.
The National Audit Office has published a Short Guide to Local Authorities, which gives an overview of the structure and accountability arrangements of local government. The Guide sets out facts and statistics on how local government is funded, the pressures local authorities face, staffing, major recent developments and what to look out for in the main local authority services.
The Government has launched a new ethnicity facts and figures website, following an audit of public services. It sets out information about ethnicity in relation to justice, health, housing, education, employment and culture and community. New datasets will be added to the website over time. The Cabinet Office has published an overview of the main findings from the audit.