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Leaving the EU: UK Legal System

Volume 644: debated on Tuesday 10 July 2018

5. What steps the Government plan to take to ensure that the UK legal system operates effectively after the UK leaves the EU. (906351)

With the European Union (Withdrawal) Act having now received Royal Assent, we are ensuring that this country’s statute book will operate effectively after we leave the EU.

The application of new technology has the potential to make our justice system even fairer and more effective. Measures such as the adoption of the use of video technology in court by the Courts and Tribunals Service could aid speed and accessibility. Will the Minister tell me how the Government aim to encourage much-needed innovation in the justice and legal system?

The Ministry of Justice is doing a number of things to improve innovation. In the courts themselves, we have a £1 billion programme that is digitalising our court services and bringing them up to date. We are also ensuring that our legal services sector continues to thrive and prosper globally. Only yesterday, we had the first meeting of the law tech panel, which is supported by Government but led by the industry to support innovation and technology for our legal services sector.

Last month, the Scottish Government produced the latest in their series of “Scotland’s Place in Europe” policy papers. The paper emphasises the importance of co-operation with the European Union on criminal justice and law enforcement for Scotland’s legal system, which is of course separate from the legal system for the rest of the UK. Will the Minister tell us what discussions she has had with her Scottish counterparts about that policy paper?

The hon. and learned Lady makes an important point, because we have distinct legal systems in Scotland and in England and Wales, and we must recognise that. Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Clancy from the Law Society of Scotland to discuss a number of issues relating to Scotland. My officials meet regularly with their counterparts in Scotland.

We know from the Chequers agreement that the Prime Minister is relaxing her red lines on the European Court of Justice. The Scottish Government stated in the paper that I mentioned that they would welcome ECJ jurisdiction on data protection matters to maintain data sharing for justice and law enforcement purposes. Just last week, the Exiting the European Union Committee recommended that the ECJ should continue to have jurisdiction over aspects of data protection after we exit the EU. Does the Minister agree with the Scottish Government and the Select Committee that that would be a good thing?

The Prime Minister has made it clear that the ECJ will no longer have direct jurisdiction in this country. Where we continue to operate common rules, it will of course be appropriate that this country can look to the ECJ jurisprudence to decide the way forward.