The Weekly Round-Up: Illegal Migration Bill, Huw Edwards, Striking Regulations
17 July 2023
In the News
Concluding five days of speculation, Huw Edwards was named on Wednesday as the BBC figure at the centre of the Sun’s allegations of sexual impropriety. The newspaper claimed the presenter had paid a young person for ‘sordid images,’ suggesting a criminal offence may have taken place if the teenager had been under 18 when the arrangement was made. Edward’s wife, Vicky Flind, has stated that her husband has been placed in hospital, the allegations having provoked a mental health crisis. The young person’s lawyer has denied the Sun’s story, stating that ‘nothing unlawful’ had occurred. The police have indicated no criminal charge will be pursued, undermining the media’s public-interest prerogative to publish the allegations. The Sun has now stated that it never intended to allege criminality, but legal commentators have suggested Edwards may be able to pursue claims for libel action and breach of privacy. A barrier to such actions is that Edwards’ identity was neither stated outright nor reasonably inferable from the initial publications, only being revealed later by his wife.
Ministers have offered Tory rebels concessions on the illegal migration bill, in particular removing nearly all the ways in which the bill could be applied retrospectively. The home secretary will be unable to remove to third countries those who migrate before the bill receives royal assent. The bill was returned to the House of Commons from the Lords on Tuesday, where the peers’ twenty amendments were overturned. Limits on the detention of pregnant women and children have also been offered to critics of the bill. Theresa May has argued the bill ‘will enable more slave drivers to operate and make money out of human misery.’
In Other News
The UK has signed a deal to join the CPTPP, a trade pact with several Asian and Pacific countries including Japan and Canada. The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership enlisted 11 nations in 2015 (then called the TPP) and originally included the US before Donald Trump pulled out of the bloc in 2017, having labelled it a ‘rape of our country’ in his election campaign. Members of the pact lower their trade barriers on goods by 98%. Britain’s membership outlines its post-Brexit trade identity as well as the Indo-Pacific foreign policy platform it is moving towards, as a natural ally to Australia and Japan against China’s military and economic objectives. The government have estimated a 0.08% GDP boost over ten years, yet commentators are optimistic about greater growth should other nations including China and Taiwan be permitted to join.
The Women’s Budget Group has stated that legal aid cuts are disproportionately affecting vulnerable women’s access to justice. The thinktank claim that a decade of cuts to legal aid for the civil claims of victims of domestic and sexual abuse have created a ‘gender civil justice gap.’ Discrimination in employment in particular is an area in which women face insurmountable financial barriers to litigation, unaided by state assistance.
In the Courts
In ASLEF, Unison and NASUWT v Secretary of State for Business and Trade  EWHC 1781 (Admin), the High Court has upheld the judicial review challenge of 13 trade unions to the government’s 2022 changes to strike regulations which had removed the ban on the use of agency workers to fill in workplace shortages during industrial action. The trade unions’ challenge asserted the decision to introduce regulations of the then Secretary of State, Kwasi Kwarteng, was unlawful on two grounds: (1) he failed to consult bodies representative of the affected groups before making the decision, per his statutory duty, and (2) the regulations breached Article 11 ECHR to prevent unlawful interference with the rights of trade unions and their members. Mr Justice Linden upheld the first ground (making no findings on the second), commenting that the ministers’ approach was ‘so unfair as to be unlawful and, indeed, irrational.’ Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, has labelled the verdict ‘a total vindication for unions and workers.’