Welcome back to this week’s edition of the news summary at The Lawyer Portal. This post will cover the key legal news stories from 2nd to 7th May. This week, Lord Judge has argued that Brexit may forever change how MPs pass effective laws, while the Conservatives have been forced to implement anti-pollution plans, and King & Wood Mallesons’ former partners have been asked to contribute up to £2,500 to a hardship fund.
Lord Judge has warned that Brexit may undermine MPs’ ability to pass laws. The former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales said that parliament were failing to scrutinise legislation in detail and were becoming increasingly reliant on their Henry VIII powers. These powers allow ministers to change highly scrutinised primary legislation with secondary legislation which often passes through parliament with little or no scrutiny.
To put this into context, the last time a piece of secondary legislation was rejected in the Commons was 1979, while the Lords have rejected six secondary bills since 1968. Some ministers try to push through controversial provisions by placing them in unrelated bills, the extensive schedules attached to statutes or by passing “skeleton bills” which permit important powers to be drafted in by subsequent amendments.
Lord Judge has warned that the way government goes about passing “the great repeal bill”, which will allow the UK to smoothly exit the European Union while ensuring all important statutes stay effective, will establish a precedent for the way the British legislature operates. So unless MPs prioritise thorough scrutiny of legislation, their law-making responsibilities may be completely undermined.
Former King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) partners have been asked to contribute up to £2,500 to a hardship fund. The fund will assist struggling former staff after the firm’s European and Middle Eastern arm (EUME) filed for administration in January this year. Tim Brednall, the former EUME managing partner asked 100 ex-partners to contribute between £1,000 and £2,500 to the fund. The fund is intended to help the ex-employees which are most in need, such as those who were on maternity leave, were unable to find new jobs, were caring for ill relatives or were ill themselves. At the time EUME filed for administration, approximately 20 staff were on maternity leave and 20 had not yet found another job.
In February 2017, 200 former KWM employees brought a legal case over the way redundancies were handled. The case related specifically to the firm’s failure to hold the required consultations 45 days before making redundancies. The hardship fund will at least go some way to helping those who were hit the hardest by EUME’s collapse. Former partners have been asked to make their contributions by the end of May.
The Conservatives lost a High Court case to delay the implementation of anti-pollution targets until after the June election. The Conservatives had tried to argue that publishing the new plans would breach “purdah” rules which restrict policy announcements that could give any party an advantage in the run up to an election. Last week, Mr Justice Garnham rejected this argument, calling the current government plans “inadequate” and ordered the draft plan to be published by 9th May. Last week, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom refused to use the word “emergency” to describe the illegal pollution levels in UK cities. The Conservatives were particularly keen to delay publishing these plans since they would likely include unpopular measures targeted at motorists.
It is reported that illegal levels of nitrogen oxide from diesel car emissions cause around 40,000 premature deaths each year in the UK. Owners of diesel cars who a few years ago were encouraged to purchase the supposedly more efficient vehicles, will now have to pay a fee to enter city centres. The new charges will be based on actual emissions rather than laboratory tests to more accurately reflect the reality of pollution levels. The plans to cut pollution are due to come into full force by 2020 in London and it is likely that other major UK cities will now have a similar deadline.