Legislation / Legal

HO: The draft order to renew control orders legislation has been laid before Parliament by the Home Secretary.  Control orders are an important tool to deal with suspected terrorists who cannot be prosecuted or deported.
 
The annual report on the operation of control orders legislation by independent reviewer of terrorism legislation Lord Carlile has also been published.  This includes his analysis of the viability of the control orders regime in light of the House of Lords' judgment in June 2009, as requested by the Home Secretary.

In addition, a post-legislative assessment memorandum on the 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act was laid before Parliament.  This is part of the Government's commitment to give post-legislative scrutiny to all Acts after 2005.  The document reiterates the Home Secretary's commitment to the control orders regime in order to protect the public.
Press release ~ HO: Control Orders ~ Lord Carlile's fifth annual report ~ Office for Security and Counter Terrorism website
 
MoJ: The government has set out the next steps to reforming the coroners' system, including plans to appoint the first ever Chief Coroner. As well as the appointment of the Chief Coroner in spring 2010, the Ministry of Justice will release a consultation in March 2010, asking for views on the policy details of the new system.
 
This will be followed in the autumn by the appointments of a National Medical Adviser to the Chief Coroner, and a National Medical Examiner.  The new system is expected to go live in April 2012.
Press release ~ Coroners and Justice Act 2009 ~ MoJ: Coroners
 
Defra: The Environment Agency and Natural England have become the first regulators to be given new civil powers that are intended to give them greater flexibility to enforce environmental law, hopefully making the system more efficient & effective for both regulators & businesses.
 
The range of new civil powers (which have been welcomed by the NFU and EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation) given under the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008, will increase the options available to regulators and include fixed & variable monetary penalties and compliance notices.
 
The sanctions will provide an alternative to criminal prosecutions for Regulators that is more proportionate and reflects the fact that the majority of non-compliance by businesses is unintentional.  The existing system was considered to be too reliant on costly & time consuming criminal prosecutions.  

The new powers will not replace existing informal methods such as advice & guidance.  Businesses & individuals will have access to an appeals process through an independent and impartial tribunal.
Press release ~ BIS: Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 ~ Regulatory Justice: Making Sanctions Effective ~ General Regulatory Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal
 
Ofgem: Energy regulator Ofgem has announced the suspension of its energy network merger policy following a consultation.  The suspension is effective immediately and it will be in place until a review of the policy is completed.
 
Ofgem will consult on proposals for a revised merger policy in spring 2010 before publishing the new policy in summer 2010.  Any mergers that are proposed in the interim period will be considered by Ofgem on a case-by-case basis.
Press release ~ Decision letter to suspend Ofgem's existing policy for mergers between energy network companies pending review
 
Newswire – HCA: A new model shared ownership lease aimed at creating more certainty for lenders and more clarity for purchasers of New Build HomeBuy property has been created by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). The revised model lease (which will be adopted by all lenders & housing providers) will come into force from 6 April 2010.
 
The HCA believes the lease will not only simplify & speed up the home buying process but, at a time of financial caution, will assure existing lenders of shared-ownership mortgages.  As economic conditions improve the revised lease should help to encourage new lenders into the shared ownership market.
Press release ~ HCA: Model leases for housing association use from April 2010 ~ New Build HomeBuy property ~ National Housing Federation’s Shared ownership mortgages conference (9 March 2010) (9 March 2010)
 
CLG: A new Private Members Bill published last week (with essential government backing) will ‘give every resident the right to hold local service providers to account through their elected representatives on all issues of local concern: like dug up roads, poor facilities at train stations, or threatened local bus routes’.
 
The proposed new powers mean councils could legally compel organisations to attend public scrutiny hearings to justify their actions and respond in full to recommendations made by the councils to resolve the problem.  This sweeps away the need to rely solely on the voluntary co-operation of organisations when addressing local concerns.
Press release ~ Total Place approach ~ Overview and Scrutiny Bill ~ Centre for Public Scrutiny ~ Closed consultation on Strengthening Local Democracy
 
ScotGov: Commenting on the new UK Groceries Code of Practice, which came into force last week, Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead, said: "Supermarkets account for the vast majority of grocery retail sales in Scotland and are often the main link between consumers and the rest of the food supply chain.  In Scotland we are already reaping the rewards of a more productive partnership through our Retailers' Charter and Retailers' Forum.
 
This Code of Practice is a welcome step in ensuring our suppliers are treated fairly by our top ten supermarkets, having been extended to cover all supermarkets with a turnover of more than £1 billion, but it needs some teeth in the form of an ombudsman………………
 
As the UK Government prepares to consult on the role of the enforcement body I have written to them reiterating Scotland's support for an Ombudsman to oversee a Code which can then deliver results for our farmers, producers and suppliers".   See also related BIS item in ‘Consultations’ section.
Press release ~ Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP) ~ CompC. - Groceries Market Investigation ~ Retailers' Charter and Retailers' Forum ~ ScotGov: Food
 
MoJ: Legal Aid Minister, Willy Bach, has announced the government will tighten the rules for civil legal aid so that fraudsters are uncovered at an early stage, and funding is better targeted. The changes, which were consulted on from July to October last year in the Legal Aid: Refocusing on Priority Cases consultation, will tighten rules so legal aid is not wasted on funding low value damages claims against public bodies, or on hopeless judicial reviews.
 
The changes will also mean that before legal aid is granted in a divorce or child contact dispute, the other side will be given an opportunity to provide evidence if the applicant is financially ineligible for legal aid.  

The changes will also restrict access to domestic civil legal aid for non-residents and restructure the LSC's committee dealing with cases of wider public interest. The changes are expected to deliver savings in terms of preventing unmeritorious claims from being made.  The new measures will be introduced in April 2010.
Press release ~ Legal aid: refocusing on priority cases - consultation response ~ MoJ: Legal aid ~ Legal Services Commission
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