What will Parliament’s priorities be for the rest of the year? And what about the civil justice agenda?
As Parliament returns from recess, we take a look at the key questions facing the Government, and how the combination of opposition, committees and backbenchers will seek to hold them to account. We also set out some activity within the civil justice arena.
Considering the transformative nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seemed strange at the end of July to think that MPs would be going on summer recess as usual. With the state more involved in the economy than it had been for a long time, and every decision immediately impacting millions of lives, the absence of procedural scrutiny had caused some raised eyebrows.
Regardless, MPs went on recess as usual, meaning that they returned this week with a huge amount of things in the in-tray already. The recent furore over A-level results is the main cause of this, but there will doubtless be other items high up on the agenda for MPs to get their teeth into as they once again take their seats in the House of Commons.
The immediate priorities will be those items that have been the perennial focus points of 2020 so far: COVID-19 and, to a lesser extent, Brexit. A wide range of Parliamentary committees are running inquiries at the moment, and how the Government has managed the COVID-19 crisis within various policy areas will be a persistent theme. As the year goes on, expect high profile witnesses to be giving oral evidence to committees, battles between committee Chairs and ministers, and headline-grabbing criticism of how the Government has handled the pandemic.
There is some activity within the civil justice arena, particularly with the whiplash reforms due to be implemented in April 2021. The Civil Justice Council is also looking at evidence, this time in respect of Guideline Hourly Rates with the intention being that a draft report is ready for full consultation by the end of 2020. And, as reported in our recent client alert, the Justice Select Committee is gathering information on court capacity (if you would like a copy of Keogh’s draft submission in advance of the deadline on Monday 7 September, please contact your client account manager).
As the year end draws nearer, attention will also naturally turn to Brexit once more. Despite trade negotiations between the UK and the EU being ongoing, there is still a very real possibility that they will not bear fruit. Many within Westminster believe that the UK may will leave the EU without a deal nearly 5 years after the original referendum.
Plenty to keep the Government, Parliament, and the rest of us very busy. As the saying goes, the only certainty is that nothing is certain.