By: Ruby Turok-Squire
30 November 2022 by Ruby Turok-Squire
In the News…
The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the Scottish parliament does not have the power to pass legislation that would allow for a second referendum on Scottish independence. Such legislation, the Supreme Court found, would touch on ‘reserved matters’, that is, matters affecting the United Kingdom as a whole. The Scottish government unsuccessfully argued that a referendum would be advisory, and as it would not have immediate impact on the existence of the UK, would not touch on reserved matters. Sturgeon, while respecting the ruling, commented that it confirmed that the UK can no longer be pictured as a voluntary partnership and noted that the next general election could serve as a ‘de facto referendum’.
Nurses are preparing to strike for the first time on the 15th and 20th of December. The issues in question include low pay and unsafe staffing levels. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has reported that experienced nurses are 20% worse off in real terms than in 2010, due to many pay increases below the rate of inflation, and that 25,000 nursing staff have left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register since last year. If ministers continue to refuse to engage in formal negotiations with the RCN, the strikes will go ahead across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and are expected to have a severe impact on care.
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7 September 2022 by Ruby Turok-Squire
In the news
Liz Truss has been confirmed as the new prime minister. She is expected to freeze energy bills at approximately £2,500 a year and to provide a £400 universal handout. She has reportedly ruled out the idea of a windfall tax on oil companies, which was proposed by Labour. She is apparently considering reviewing workers’ rights, as part of her plan to scrap remaining EU regulations by the end of next year.
The chair of the Criminal Bar Association has called on Dominic Raab to hold talks to resolve their industrial action, which began in April. On Monday, criminal barristers began an indefinite all-out strike, calling for legal aid fees to increase by 25% immediately.
In other news
Ministers plan to introduce legislation to encourage nurses and dentists trained elsewhere to begin working for the NHS. The health secretary, Steve Barclay, is hoping to boost overseas recruitment in health and social care. This move comes after the number of unfilled NHS posts reached a record high of 132,139 earlier this year. Link 5 – ministers to make it easier
Two councils are planning to seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court following two successful appeals which involved the striking out of negligence claims that had been brought against them. The appeals considered when children being cared for by local authorities under the Children Act 1989 are owed a duty of care by those local authorities and the social workers for whom they are vicariously liable.
The conservation charity WildFish has asked the Government to withdraw its Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan, on the grounds that it is ‘unlawful on many counts’ by encouraging breaches of environmental laws to continue. The Plan allows the continuation of environmental damage caused by up to 100% of storm overflows discharging into high priority sites. It has been labelled a ‘smoke and mirror’ approach which does not deal robustly with water companies’ sewage pollution of UK rivers.
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9 August 2022 by Ruby Turok-Squire
A leaked report from the Ministry of Justice has suggested that Dominic Raab is considering reforms to judicial review that would effectively limit ministers’ accountability. This comes in the context of Suella Braverman’s suggestions that judicial reviews are being brought for ‘political ends’, and Lord Reed’s cautionary note regarding campaigning organisations bringing challenges to discrimination law, having lobbied unsuccessfully against such legislation whilst it was considered in Parliament (R (on the application of SC, CB and 8 children) (Appellants) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and others (Respondents) 2021, 162).
Concerns continue that such reforms would not respect the separation of powers. For example, Jolyon Maugham QC recently commented that Raab ‘seems to want… a world in which government is above the law’.
Conservative frontrunner Liz Truss is promising to cut taxes this winter to support families amidst rising energy bills, through an emergency budget that would be enacted this September. Sunak, her rival, has pledged to provide a £15bn overall package of assistance with energy bills. Criticisms have been raised of Truss’ plans, however, with suggestions that they could cost £30bn, £40bn or even £50bn per year. Both candidates’ plans have been criticised for not being accompanied by plans for lower spending that would make them sustainable. Labour’s Rachel Reeves has argued that amidst ‘fantasy economics and unfunded announcements from the Tories’, Labour alone can offer Britain the fresh start that it needs.
A survey by the British Dental Association and the BBC has shown that 91% of NHS practices in England are not accepting new adult patients. Louise Ansari, national director of Healthwatch England, has called the results of the survey ‘dire’. Stories have emerged of people pulling out their own teeth and making their own teeth out of resin to stick back on with superglue. The health secretary has noted the ‘urgency’ of preparing the NHS for winter, amidst the pressures of coronavirus, the rising cost of living and seasonal flu. Whether the Department of Health and Social Care’s recent comment regarding the ‘government priority’ of NHS dental care will translate into satisfactory results remains to be seen.
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4 July 2022 by Ruby Turok-Squire
Criticism of the planned British bill of rights has been gathering momentum. Free speech campaigners have argued that it will undermine freedom of expression rather than support it. Labour’s shadow justice minister called it ‘a very dark day for victims of crime, for women, for people in care, for everyone in this country who rely on the state to protect them from harm’ . A cross-party amendment that would include the right to abortion has been proposed. While Dominic Raab stated that abortion is already ‘settled in UK law’, Labour MPs have argued that there should be a free vote for MPs on enshrining abortion in the bill as a fundamental right.
Nicola Sturgeon has announced that the Scottish government intends to hold an independence referendum on 19th October 2023. Her government has requested that the Supreme Court give a ruling on whether they can legally call such a referendum without authorisation from Westminster. Sturgeon commented that if the court’s response is negative, the next general election could provide a ‘de facto referendum’ on independence.
In other news
According to a recent analysis, the proportion of judicial reviews in England and Wales in which claimants have won has fallen by 50% since 2020. Last year, 31 judicial reviews (excluding immigration) found for the claimant in the High Court, the lowest number since 2001, when records began. Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project, responded with a warning that the rule of law ‘could easily become a relic for the history books’
The Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General’s Office have called on the Law Commission of England and Wales to review the law regarding contempt of court. This comes amidst concerns that the current system is ‘disordered and unclear’. The review will aim at simplification, clarification, consistency and greater effectiveness within the law regarding civil and criminal contempt of court. It will address, among other things, Article 10 ECHR in relation to publishing information about court proceedings, potential procedural issues, responsibility for adjudication, investigation and prosecution, and the appropriateness of current penalties.
The UK Information Commissioner has announced that public authorities will only be fined for data breaches in ‘the most egregious cases’. The effectiveness of fines as a deterrent was doubted by the Commissioner. Public reprimands will be used more frequently, alongside enforcement notices, as part of ‘a more proactive and targeted approach’.
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