MoJ: New proposals to control costs in defamation proceedings have been announced by Justice Minister Bridget Prentice. This follows widespread concerns about the high cost of legal fees in defamation cases. Measures under consideration are:
* Limiting recoverable hourly rates by setting either maximum or fixed recoverable rates
* Mandatory cost capping or mandatory consideration of cost capping in every case
* Requiring the proportionality of total costs to be considered on cost assessments conducted by the court.
The consultation is aimed at, in particular, legal representatives who conduct litigation in the area of defamation, media organisations, insurers and those in England & Wales with an interest in, or views on, the proposals.
Press release ~ Consultation Paper on Controlling Costs in Defamation Proceedings ~ Civil Procedure Rules
BERR: The Government has launched a consultation (closes on 22 May 2009) on its new scheme to compensate trawlermen who lost their livelihoods following the 1970s 'Cod Wars'. The Government intends to open the new scheme to applications in the summer. The previous scheme that ran from 2000 to 2002 was found to be unfair by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
Press release ~ Consultation document ~ Put together in haste: 'Cod Wars' trawlermen's compensation scheme
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a further consultation paper (closes on 22 May 2009) relating to compensation & redress payments arising from operational failures including mis-selling that life insurance companies may currently charge to their with-profits funds. These proposals relate specifically to proprietary firms rather than mutuals.
Press release ~ Consultation Paper 09/9: With-profit funds - compensation and redress: Further consultation, feedback on CP08/11 and draft Handbook text ~ Previous (closed) consultation paper issued last year (CP08/11)
BERR: A new internet discussion site to encourage an online debate about the Government's vision for a fully digital economy and society has been launched. To kick-start the discussion, Minister for Technology, Communications and Broadband, Stephen Carter, has filmed a video appealing for views on the Digital Britain interim report's recommendations. To enable a genuinely networked debate, the discussion site contains links to the relevant blogs about Digital Britain that have already appeared on Write to Reply, Twitter and other significant sites.
Stakeholders have been invited to submit formal responses to the interim report by 12 March 2009. This discussion site is additional to this process and will run beyond that deadline.
SGC: Fraudsters who use stolen identities to carry out their crimes should face severe sentences – the Sentencing Guidelines Council has recommended in a consultation (closes on Friday 15 May 2009) guideline on fraud offences.
Sentencers are also advised to give heavier sentences to fraudsters & tricksters who prey on vulnerable victims. The guideline highlights the cases of victims of advance fee cons, which defraud individuals with promises of prizes or windfalls.
Press release ~ Consultation guideline: Sentencing for fraud – statutory offences ~ Letter to consultees ~ Advice: Sentencing for fraud offences ~ SGC
DECC: Two measures have been announced to help provide clarity and confidence for consumers concerned about climate change:
* A New Carbon offsetting quality mark - the Carbon Offsetting Quality Assurance Scheme
* A Consultation (closes on 21 May 2009) proposing improved stringency & greater consistency in the use of the term ‘carbon neutral’
CompC: The Competition Commission (CC) has published a draft Order for consultation (closes 30 March 2009) which will see the creation of a new strengthened & extended Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP).
The Order follows the CC's inquiry into UK groceries retailing last year, which concluded that measures were needed to address its concerns about relationships between retailers and their suppliers. The CC will also shortly publish a draft Order outlining measures to prevent exclusivity arrangements & restrictive covenants being used by grocery retailers to restrict entry by competitors in order to improve competition in local areas.
The CC will also be consulting publicly in the next couple of weeks on draft undertakings which would establish an Ombudsman to oversee & resolve disputes under the new Code. Unlike with the GSCOP, the CC does not have the power to establish an Ombudsman itself, so this requires the agreement of retailers.
CLG: Local residents are to be given more time to respond to the Government's second eco-towns public consultation after Housing Minister Margaret Beckett extended the deadline for responses. The consultation on the draft Planning Policy Statement (PPS) and Sustainability Appraisal on eco-towns has now been extended to Thursday 30 April 2009, meaning it will run for more than five months. There will be a further opportunity for the public to have a say once planning applications are submitted for eco-towns.
A viability study on the proposals submitted by developers will also be published shortly and will provide more information to people looking to respond to the consultation. Ministers will carefully consider all consultation responses before coming to final decisions on the PPS.
LLUK: Lifelong Learning UK is leading a process of data collection about the workforce to ensure there is a better understanding of those operating in the lifelong learning sector. They have been analysing & reporting labour market intelligence gained through the Staff Individualised Record (SIR) submissions received from further education (FE) colleges.
As part of a data collection process revision, Lifelong Learning UK has now created an online consultation portal for all those involved in submitting data to discuss any aspects of the collection. The portal will enable frequent & simple interaction and will build a community of users to assist each other.
Ofgem: RPI-X@20 is one of a number of forward-looking projects at Ofgem designed to ensure that Britain’s gas and electricity industries meet the needs of consumers, now & in the future, and pave the way for a low-carbon economy. Not only does this represent a wholesale review of the core business of Ofgem (pipes and wires regulation), but it significantly affects consumers as it impacts on at least 20% of the energy bill.
‘Principles, Process and Issues’ is the first consultation (closes 24 April 2009) in a root & branch review that could re-shape the future of energy network regulation. The regulator is re-evaluating the regime that has governed the revenue & expenditure of the energy networks for almost 20 years. The review, Regulating Energy Networks for the Future - RPI-X@20, will hopefully ensure that regulation of Britain’s energy networks is fit for purpose in the face of new environmental, economic and social challenges.
Ofgem intend to publish two further consultation documents and a final decision document. These documents will provide an update on their thinking and allow interested parties to formally express their views.
WAG: A new plan to lessen Wales’ reliance on fossil fuels and increase the use of renewable, low-carbon energy sources has been published for consultation (closes on 22 May 2009)by Welsh Environment Minister, Jane Davidson – See ‘In the News’ for more information.