Wednesday 30 September 2020

Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore

The retirement from the Supreme Court of the UK of Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore was noted in a video tribute by the court's President - Lord Reed. 

Lord Kerr's departure from the judiciary is also notable because he was the last appointment as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary - the "Law Lords" who, until October 2009, sat in the former Appellate Committee of the House of Lords.

Lord Kerr was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1970 and to the Bar of England and Wales in 1974. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1983 and to the High Court of Northern Ireland in 1993. He became Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland in 2004.

Update 1 December 2020:

Supreme Court of the UK - Tribute to Lord Kerr whose death was announced today.

Confusion abounds ~ is a "gathering" in a pub garden in Barnard Castle permitted?

On Tuesday 29 September, the Prime Minister, on a visit to Exeter, was asked to clarify whether people from two  households in the north east of England were allowed to meet in a pub garden. He gave an unclear answer. This story is covered by Camilla Tominey in The Telegraph 29 September - "Boris Johnson Covid rules confusion reflect the palpable sense of chaos at Number 10" Later in the day, Johnson issued a statement to correct the position. The Guardian 29 September also covered the same story.

Part of the problem here is that, at the time Johnson spoke on 29 September, the new Regulations were not in the public domain. The new regulations appear as an amendment to existing regulations applicable to NE England. 

They amendments were "made" by the Minister on 29 September and contain a statement that they were laid before

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Coronavirus ~ serious on-going concerns

The new University year commenced this month but many new students are finding that it is likely to be far from the experience they actually wanted.  Students in Halls of Residence in Manchester were "locked in" following positive covid tests on some 127 students - Manchester Evening News Friday 25 September 2020.  

The legality of the University's action was questioned with comment that, in the absence of statutory authority, the students might have been "falsely imprisoned" - see Evening Standard 28 September

False imprisonment

Friday 25 September 2020

Coronavirus restrictions: The Thicket of legislation - Update (24 September)

By mid-August the "lockdown" had eased with cafes and pubs trading again. Customers returned to local shops and, in early September, schools and Universities resumed. The late summer weather continued to be generally warm and sunny enabling people to enjoy life outdoors whenever possible. Of course, even in August, the pandemic was far from over and caution continued to be vital to minimise the spread of the virus. 

Unfortunately, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the rate of infection

Thursday 17 September 2020

Scotland's Advocate General resigns ~ Internal Market Bill furore

Lord Keen of Elie QC was Advocate General for Scotland from 29 May 2025 to 16 September 2020. His resignation letter states that over the past week he had found it increasingly difficult to reconcile what he considered to be his obligations as a Law Officer with the policy intentions in the UK Internal Market Bill. 

He stated - "I have endeavoured to identify a respectable argument for the provisions at clauses 42 to 45 of the Bill but it is clear that this will not meet your policy intentions." He concluded by saying - "Your government faces challenges on a number of fronts and I fear that the UKIM Bill in its present form will not make these any easier."

During the House of Commons debate of 8 September, Sir Robert Neill QC MP

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Internal Market Bill Second Reading ~ a note

The UK Internal Market Bill passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons on Monday 14 September. The vote was 340 to 263 (majority 77). 30 Conservative MPs abstained and two voted against the bill. See Hansard for the full debate. The House has therefore affirmed the bill in principle - (Erskine May para. 28.45). The next stage is Committee of the Whole House - UK Parliament UK Internal Market Bill and a number of amendments to the Bill have been tabled.

The Internal Market Bill contains a number of provisions (Clauses 42 to 45) which, if they become law and are actually applied, will place the UK in breach of the withdrawal agreement. Furthermore, it is arguable that the Bill itself is a breach of certain of the UK's obligations under the withdrawal agreement - for example, Article 5 (Good Faith) which requires the parties to refrain from "any measures which could jeopardise the attainment of the objectives of" the Agreement.

Saturday 12 September 2020

UK Internal Market Bill and Devolution

My previous two posts - HERE and HERE - focussed on concern about the UK Internal Market Bill and the provisions dealing with the powers of Ministers to disapply aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement.

This is not the only bone of contention in the Bill. Described in some quarters as "an abomination" the Bill will undoubtedly impact on the devolution settlements as is well explained in these links:

Information for Government - Explainer - Internal Market Bill

Centre on Constitutional Change - The Internal Market Bill: implications for devolution

House of Commons Library Research Briefings - UK Internal Market Bill

The government claims that the Bill will "boost" the Scottish economy but that claim is refuted by the Scottish Government which plans to refuse legislative consent to the Internal Market Bill.

Like so much to do with Brexit - which a majority of Scotland's electorate opposed - the Bill is feeding demands for Scottish Independence. The Welsh Government described the Bill as an attack on democracy. Welsh voters supported Brexit.

12 September 2020

Friday 11 September 2020

UK-EU talks Round 8 and furore over the Internal Market Bill

The 8th Round of negotiations between the UK and the EU concluded on 10 September though talks between officials will continue over the coming days. As shown by the statement of the EU's chief negotiator (Michel Barnier) major differences between the two sides continue to exist. The UK's negotiator (Lord Frost) issued a brief statement stating - "We remain committed to working hard to reach agreement by the middle of October, as the Prime Minister set out earlier this week. We have agreed to meet again, as planned, in Brussels next week to continue discussions.”

Without question, the United Kingdom

Thursday 10 September 2020

UK Internal Market Bill

This previous post (8 September) noted the controversy over whether the government was going to breach in any way the Withdrawal Agreement. Mr Brandon Lewis MP (Secretary of State for Northern Ireland) confirmed that the proposed Internal Market Bill would "break international law in a very specific and limited way."

On 9 September) the Internal Market Bill was published. The government issued this explanation of the purposes of the Bill. The explanation states -

"The UK Internal Market Bill will

Tuesday 8 September 2020

UK and EU talks Round 8 ~ Controversy at Westminster

Talks between the UK and the EU have entered the 8th Round - see EU Commission. Whether an agreement (or agreements) are possible is debatable - see House of Commons Library - UK-EU future relatonship negotiations update: is an agreement possible
Ahead of the Round 8 talks the Prime Minister issued a Statement in which he stated - "There needs to be an agreement with our European friends by the time of the European Council on 15 October if it’s going to be in force by the end of the year. So there is no sense in thinking about timelines that go beyond that point. If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on."

The UK left the EU

Monday 7 September 2020

Fixed-term Parliaments ~ the Act is due for review

The controversial Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (FTPA) is due for a review.

Under section 7 of the Act - The Prime Minister must make arrangements for a committee to carry out a review of the operation of the Act and, if appropriate in consequence of its findings, to make recommendations for the repeal or amendment of the Act. The PM must also make arrangements for the publication of the committee's findings and recommendations (if any).

A majority of the members of the committee are to be members of the House of Commons.

Arrangements to set up the committee have to be made no earlier than 1 June 2020 and no later than 30 November 2020.

Few observers of the British political scene will forget

Sunday 6 September 2020

Piers Corbyn ~ a £10,000 fixed penalty notice

Update - The Guardian 2 December 2020 - Piers Corbyn found guilty - sentenced to an absolute discharge.

On 29 August a protest (or "anti-lockdown rally") took place in Trafalgar Square, London - The Guardian 30 August.  As the rally was dispersing, Mr Piers Corbyn (73) was arrested and it is reported that he was held by the Police for some 10 hours before being given a £10,000 fixed penalty notice issued under the heavily amended Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No 2) (England) Regulations 2020 - (SI 2020/684). The rally's purpose was to call for repeal of the legal restrictions imposed by the government to manage the coronavirus pandemic. Piers Corbyn

Thursday 3 September 2020

JUSTICE report - Reform of major inquests and inquiries

The Guardian 1 September 2020 reported that Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, which represents 1,600 bereaved families, is campaigning for a rapid public inquiry into the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and is taking legal action to try to force one, sending pre-action letters to the government.

At Prime Minister's Questions on 2 September, Keir Starmer (Leader of the Opposition) asked whether the Prime Minister would meet with the bereaved families group. Mr Johnson replied that - " .... it turns out that this particular group ... are currently in litigation against the Government, and I will certainly meet them once that litigation is concluded."

In an earlier post 15 April 2020 I wondered