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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
20 October 2017
Volume 629

Written Statements

Friday 20 October 2017

Home Department

IOPC: Appointment of Director General

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I am today announcing the Crown appointment of Michael Lockwood as the first Director General of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), part of the package of measures which will create a stronger, clearer governance framework for the police complaints and discipline systems.

The Policing and Crime Act 2017 provides for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), to be reformed and renamed as the IOPC. The existing Commission will be replaced by a single executive head of the organisation, the Director General, with corporate governance provided by a unitary board comprising a majority of non-executive members. The reforms are planned to come into effect in January 2018.

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Justice

Justice and Home Affairs Post-Council Statement

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The Justice and Home Affairs Council took place on 12 and 13 October in Luxembourg. I represented the UK for justice day, along with the Minister for Immigration, my right hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis). My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department represented the UK for interior day.

Justice day (12 October) began with the adoption by 20 member states of the regulation establishing the European public prosecutor’s office (EPPO). We have always been clear that the UK will never participate in an EPPO.

This was followed by a policy debate on the proposed regulation on mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders, which the UK has opted into. Discussion focused on extending the scope of the draft regulation to include systems of preventive confiscation, on condition of a clear link to criminal activities, and the application of procedural safeguards. The Minister for Immigration intervened to support this extension, which was agreed by Ministers.

Ministers proceeded to discuss the European criminal records information system (ECRIS) and the proposed extension on the exchange of information to third-country nationals. Debate covered questions on dual nationals and the threshold for the obligation to take fingerprints. The Minister for Immigration supported the extension, and urged for flexibility on the technical detail. There was no clear majority on the specific questions and the presidency mandated further technical work on these issues.

Following this, the director of the Fundamental Rights Agency, Michael O’Flaherty, introduced its annual report on the application of the charter of fundamental rights. The discussion focused on rights protections in the EU. EU Ministers then adopted the Council conclusions on the application of the charter of fundamental rights.

Over lunch, domestic implementation of the EU general data protection regulation which will apply from 25 May 2018 was discussed. I used this opportunity to highlight the UK’s ongoing commitment to strong data protection standards, and that the UK was readying itself for application of the GDPR in a number of ways, including through the Data Protection Bill currently in Parliament.

The afternoon comprised a joint session of Justice and Interior Ministers. The Commission updated Ministers on their cyber-security strategy, e-evidence, and encryption. The Minister for Immigration intervened to support strong encryption and effective law enforcement access to electronic evidence, offering to share the UK’s expertise on working with service providers. The Commission noted that a new strategic framework for EU cyber-security will be adopted at the General Affairs Council in November, and they will shortly issue a communication on tackling illegal content online.

The final item on justice day provided Ministers with an opportunity to comment on the presidency’s mid-term review of the JHA strategic guidelines. Ministers and the Commission were positive about the EU’s progress against existing guidelines, but noted the change of priorities in light of evolving threats. Ministers’ priorities included migration, data sharing and improved links between internal and external security policy. New guidelines will be proposed to the December European Council.

Interior day (13 October) began with a discussion on the Commission’s proposal to amend the Schengen border code to allow internal borders to be raised in exceptional circumstances. As the UK is not part of the Schengen internal border-free zone, the Home Secretary did not intervene. The proposal will now be discussed at a technical level.

This was followed by a presentation from the non-EU counter-terrorism group (CTG). The CTG reported on the development of improved co-operation with Europol. Interventions from Europol, the Commission and the EU counter-terrorism co-ordinator focused on the continuing need for greater co-operation.

Finally, the presidency presented its progress report on the common European asylum system. There was no discussion.

Council concluded with a working lunch focused on resettlement. The UK, along with other member states, supported resettlement. The Home Secretary highlighted the UK’s strong track record of resettlement, including our offer of 5,000 places so far in response to the Commission’s latest call. This is part of our wider commitment to resettle 23,000 refugees from the region by 2020. The Home Secretary also stressed that resettlement should be from the refugee’s home region to ensure that we do not inadvertently incentivise illegal migration.

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Justice Update

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When the Supreme Court handed down judgment in the case of R (Unison) v. Lord Chancellor on 26 July, the Government took immediate steps to stop charging fees in the employment tribunals. We also said that we would bring forward detailed arrangements to refund people who had paid fees. We will today be launching the first phase of the refund scheme.

We will use this first phase, which will last up to four weeks, to ensure that the refund process works efficiently and effectively. From today, officials in the Ministry of Justice will be writing to an initial group of up to 1,000 people who paid fees for proceedings in the employment tribunals, inviting them to take part. This group will consist of people who have contacted us since the Supreme Court judgment inquiring about a refund. Those who receive a refund will also be paid interest from the date their payment was received.

We recognise that during the initial phase of the refund scheme, there is likely to be considerable interest in the details of the scheme. For those who have paid employment tribunals fees, but have not been invited to take part in the initial stage, we are setting up a pre-registration scheme so that they can register an interest in applying when the full scheme is rolled out. Those who wish to do so can register either by email at: ethelpwithfees@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk: or alternatively by post to the following addresses:

For proceedings in England and Wales

Employment Tribunals Central Office (England and Wales)/Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) Fees

PO Box 10218

Leicester LE1 8EG

For proceedings in Scotland

Employment Tribunals Central Office Scotland/Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) Fees

PO Box 27105

Glasgow G2 9JRX

This phase is primarily aimed at people making applications for refunds in single claims. During this period, we will also be working with the trade unions on how this process should be best applied to applications for refunds in larger multiple claims.

We plan to roll out the full refund scheme early in November. At that point, anyone who has paid a fee in the employment tribunals, whether in a single or multiple claim, will be able to claim a refund.

Those who will be eligible to apply for a refund under the scheme are:

People who paid a fee directly to the Employment Tribunal or Employment Appeal Tribunal, and have not been reimbursed by their opponent pursuant to an order of the tribunal.

People who were ordered by the tribunal to reimburse their opponent their fee and who can show that they have paid it.

Representatives (such as a trade union) who paid a fee on behalf of another person and have not been reimbursed by that person.

The lead claimant (or representative) in a multiple claim who paid a fee on behalf of the other claimants.

Further guidance will be available when the scheme is rolled out.

To receive a refund, applicants will be invited to complete an application form with their details, details of their employment tribunal claim and the fees that they paid. These details will be verified against HMCTS’s records. Where people are unable to provide full details of the fees they paid, or the details they provide do not accord with the details we hold, their application will not be refused automatically, but it may take longer to process.

Where a person is claiming for fees that they reimbursed to their opponent pursuant to a tribunal order, they will be asked to provide a copy of the tribunal order, and proof of payment. In cases where a person reimbursed their opponent under a private settlement, they will not be eligible for a refund; in such cases, the person who paid the fee to the tribunal will be eligible for a refund.

All applicants will also be asked to sign a declaration of truth about the details they provide. Refunds will be made to the applicant’s bank account; if an individual does not have a bank account, they can contact HMCTS for alternative methods of payment.

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