It’s been a busy term in Westminster and Parliament is now in summer recess until September. The new session began with the Queen’s Speech which announced a range of new legislation, including on judicial review. This follows the Government’s consultation on the proposed recommendation for judicial review reform to which the Bar Council responded. Similarly, we also submitted a response to the Criminal Legal Aid Review and we will be awaiting the Government’s report later in the autumn. We met with Sir Peter Gross, Chair of the Human Rights Act Review. The Government published the long-awaited end-to-end rape review.
We have met with a number of Government Ministers including the Lord Chancellor, the Law Officers, Minister for Investment (Lord Grimstone), Minister for South Asia and the Commonwealth (Lord Ahmad) and their Shadow Counterparts to discuss international legal services, the rule of law, sanctions and the court backlog.
The Chair of the Bar chaired breakfast meetings with Midlands Conservative MPs and Northern Labour MPs alongside respective Circuit Leaders in the Midlands, North and North East and the Chair of the Northern Circuit Commercial Bar Association.
There are several Bills going through Parliament which we have been working on which include:
- Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill: The Chair of the Bar, Derek Sweeting QC, gave evidence to the Public Bill Committee and we also submitted written evidence to which we were referenced by several MPs. Together with the Law Society, we issued a joint briefing on the remote juries provision. The Bill completed its stages in the House of Commons and we will be briefing Peers ahead of the next stages.
- Professional Qualifications Bill: The Bar Council briefed Peers ahead of Committee Stage of the Bill and our concerns were strongly raised in the debate which led to a meeting with the Minister directly.
- Environment Bill: After a long wait, the Bill finally made progress in the House of Lords and we briefed Peers ahead of Committee Stage. We have met with several organisations to discuss the provisions and have been working closely with Peers on a number of strands.
- Judicial Review and Courts Bill: The Government introduced the legislation just before summer recess. Our group of barristers are looking at the Bill over the summer and we will be briefing MPs ahead of the next stages once Parliament returns.
- Nationality and Borders Bill: Following its Second Reading, we are setting up a small Working Group to work on the Bill.
The Domestic Abuse Bill received Royal Assent and we will continue to push for our call to make non-means tested legal aid available for domestic abuse victims. We have been meeting with domestic abuse organisations and there is a lot of interest in our work as well as the opportunity to partner.
The Bar Council responded to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s inquiry on the scrutiny of international treaties. We also gave oral evidence to the new Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee to help in their preparation for future inquiries.
Looking forward to the autumn, the Bar Council will be attending the upcoming Party Conferences. We are also working on our submission for the upcoming Spending Review. The Opening of the Legal Year will take place on 1 October 2021.