Thursday, 20 May 2010

Governmental News and Reviews but not all will be plain sailing

The State Opening of Parliament will be on 25th May.   This is one of the State occasions when the full panoply of Her Majesty The Queen attending Parliament can be seen.  The "Queen in Parliament" is the U.K's legislative body.  Any Bill must, in order to become law, pass both Houses of Parliament and receive the Royal Assent though, in practice, the latter is a formality.  The Queen will read the "Queen's Speech" setting out the plans for the forthcoming session of Parliament.  The speech is followed by debate in the House of Commons.  The detail of the speech is eagerly awaited and this is particularly the case with the first speech of a new Parliament.
The Ministry of Justice - [now headed by Kenneth Clarke] - has announced the responsibilities of the Ministerial Team.  Significantly, responsibility for Youth Justice is now entirely with the Ministry of Justice instead of the previous division between MoJ and Education.

Some 27 Policy Reviews have been announced in the full version of the Coalition Agreement.  The Civil Liberties proposals are in section 3 of the agreement; Policing is at paragraph 6 and Justice at paragraph 20.  This is a very full programme over the entire range of government activity.  The reviews will look at important topics such as the Human Rights Act 1998; the Extradition Act 2003; House of Lords Reform and Sentencing Policy.   The Extradition Act 2003 has been particularly criticised because of the arrangements between the U.K. and the U.S.A.  The Gary MacKinnon case exemplifies these arrangements.

Also, there will be a review of legal aid aimed at making it work more efficiently.  Proceeds from the "Victim Surcharge" will be used to deliver up to 15 new rape crisis centres as well as putting those which exist on a more stable basis.  A further and unexpected announcement is that anonymity will be extended to defendants in rape cases.  This is likely to be extremely controversial - see The Guardian 20th May.  Under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1976 s.6, defendants had anonymity but this was removed by the Criminal Justice Act 1988 s158(5).

The Electoral Commission has been looking at the problems with voting at the General Election on 6th May.  See their announcement and report.  The HUMAN RIGHTS BLOG has a good article on this.  LIBERTY has responded to the Commission's report.


  1. Unlike the sour views in the media - including the BBC and The Times - I am hopeful of this policy document. I don't agree with quite a lot but I like the spirit of "give and take" and it's such a relief to have a rest from the tribalism of the Brown years.

  2. Thanks OnlookerJP. I agree that much of the media coverage about the new government has been more concerned with looking for problems than emphasising the positives. I too am hopeful though, as ever with legal things, we await the detail where the devil often lies. From the outset, I have been of the view that the new government ought to be given a fair wind and let's see how things shake down.