BIRMINGHAM POST PRESIDENT’S COLUMN

Birmingham Post President’s Column
June 2015

BY MUSHTAQ KHAN

The dust from the unexpected General Election result is settling and the Queen’s Speech on May 27 set out the new Government’s plans. For lawyers, of particular interest will be the EU referendum, replacement of the Human Rights Act, the new Investigatory Powers Bill and the devolution issue.

Delayed proposals for a British Bill of Rights will undoubtedly face stiff opposition from across the political spectrum, including a possible backbench rebellion led by the former Lord Chancellor Ken Clarke and the former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, who has described the proposals as a “recipe for chaos”. The newly appointed Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove, is a shrewd and articulate politician and I suspect the Prime Minster has chosen him for the big fight that lies ahead.

The EU Referendum Bill will legislate for an ‘in-out’ vote on the UK’s membership of the EU before the end of 2017. It is the most talked about piece of legislation by the business community and the legal profession. The profession should look carefully at the implications for the legal services sector and get stuck into the debate early.

A new Investigatory Powers Bill, commonly referred to as the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’, will expand the ability of intelligence agencies to collect information. Late last year government documents revealed British intelligence agencies have policies allowing staff to access confidential communications between lawyers and their clients. There are serious reservations that the Bill will include measures that could weaken legal professional privilege.

At a regional level, there is the sticky issue of devolution. Will Birmingham and the region’s council leaders and politicians finally come together to secure a better deal and an improved future? In the words of Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the USS Enterprise, “Make it So!”.

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