Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The Queen's Speech - a lot to do

The State Opening of Parliament was held on Tuesday 25th May with the usual pomp and pageantry.  The real business of Parliament now begins and interesting days lie ahead.  The Queen's Speech contained 23 Bills (and one draft Bill) - see Number 10 for a list of the Bills and The Guardian 26th May Many of the Bills are concerned with implementing economic policy (e.g. Office for Budget Responsibility Bill; Financial Reform Bill; Welfare Reform Bill etc).  Of particular interest to Law and Lawyers will be the Parliamentary Reform Bill, Scotland Bill (aimed at implementing recommendations of the Calman Commission); Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill; Freedom Bill; Terrorist (Asset - Freezing) Bill; European Union Bill and the draft Parliamentary Privilege Bill.

To the relief of many, there is no blockbuster Criminal Justice Bill - (as such).  Relief is likely to be temporary since there are many areas of the criminal law and the criminal justice system which ought to be improved.   Similarly with civil cases - e.g. the very pressing issue of costs.  Legal Aid is a major issue for both criminal and civil justice.

The Freedom Bill perhaps comes closest to a criminal justice bill since it will deal with a range of matters such as the DNA Database, peaceful protest, trial by jury etc. This Bill will also address reform of the libel laws.  Also, Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC has introduced a Private Member's Bill on Defamation reform.  Lord Lester's proposals merit very serious consideration.

This is a big legislative programme and it is to be wondered just how much detailed scrutiny will actually be applied to each Bill.  The progress of the various bills can be see via the Parliament website.  In addition to the legislative programme, there is a massive amount of work to be done in other areas.  Some 22 such areas are listed on the Downing Street website.

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