Tuesday 5 March 2019
Administration of Justice: Impact of Social Media
Today I am publishing the Government’s response to the call for evidence on the impact of social media on the administration of justice. The response is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/response-to-call-for-evidence-on-the-impact-of-social-media-on-the-administration-of-justice, and a copy has also been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
The focus of the call for evidence was to look at the impact of social media on the criminal justice system, with particular attention paid to the issues of active proceedings and breaches of reporting restrictions and anonymity orders.
The evidence was varied and I am grateful to everyone who contributed. We can conclude that, for the moment, social media is not having a widespread impact on the trial process. This, however, may not remain the case if the issues identified are not addressed. The response sets out a number of ways that the Government will respond to the variety of issues raised. This includes improving links with social media companies, which will enable easier removal of harmful posts, and working with cross-Government partners, including the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Home Office, on the White Paper on online harms to tackle related issues. Further, I will work with my Public Legal Education Committee to raise awareness of the risks and implications of using social media to comment on criminal trials. As a part of this work, the Government have created a dedicated webpage to support public understanding of contempt of court and anonymity orders, which can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/contempt-of-court. In addition to working on guidance for the public, work is also underway to develop comprehensive guidance on contempt led by the Judicial Office. I am grateful to the judiciary for their support in understanding and dealing with this issue.
I am confident that these measures will contribute to ensuring safer use of social media in accordance with the law and will support the Government’s efforts to make the internet a safer place.
Right to Rent Scheme
The right to rent scheme was launched to prevent illegal migrants from accessing the private rental sector, and to tackle unscrupulous landlords who exploit vulnerable migrants, sometimes in very poor conditions.
In 2016, a requirement was introduced for landlords and lettings agents in England to take reasonable steps to check that they are renting only to someone who has a right to do so.
These checks apply equally to everyone seeking to rent property and there are penalties for landlords who fail to complete them and who are later found to have rented to someone without a right to be in the UK.
The law was and remains absolutely clear that discriminatory treatment on the part of anyone carrying out these checks is unlawful. And the right to rent legislation provides for a code of practice which sets out what landlords are expected to do.
The scheme was trialled in the west midlands. This trial was evaluated in full, with the results published in October 2015. They included 539 responses to online surveys, 12 focus groups, 36 one-to-one interviews, and a mystery shopping exercise involving 332 encounters.
The Home Office evaluation found there was no systemic discrimination on the basis of race.
It is therefore disappointing that, on Friday last week, the right to rent scheme was declared incompatible with the European convention on human rights. The High Court ruled that Parliament’s decision to impose right to rent checks is outweighed by the potential for race discrimination by those with the duty to perform the required checks.
We disagree with this finding and the Home Office has been granted permission to appeal all aspects of the judgment.
In the meantime, the provisions passed by this House in 2014 remain in force. There are no immediate changes to the operation of the policy. Landlords and letting agents are still obliged to conduct right to rent checks as required in legislation. They must not discriminate against anyone on the basis of their colour or where they come from.
As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has previously said, we are looking at options for a further evaluation of the operation of the scheme. As part of this, we will look to develop further mechanisms to monitor the operation of the scheme to provide ongoing assurance about its impact.
The Home Secretary has written to the independent adviser on lessons learned from Windrush, Wendy Williams, to draw her attention to the High Court’s findings.
The review is identifying the key legislative, policy and operational failures which resulted in members of the Windrush generation becoming entangled in measures designed for illegal immigrants.
The Right to Rent Consultative Panel will meet again next month to look at the operation of the scheme and the guidance provided to landlords and lettings agents.
The Government are committed to tackling discrimination in all its forms and to having an immigration system which provides control, but which is also fair, humane and fully compliant with the law. This includes ensuring illegal migrants, with no right to be in the UK, are not able to access work, benefits and public services.
Trade Remedies Authority
This Government are committed to ensuring the UK has our own trade remedies function in place by the time we leave the EU.
The Trade Bill contains provisions establishing the Trade Remedies Authority (TRA), while the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018 (TCBTA) confers trade remedy functions on it. The Trade Bill has completed Committee stage in the House of Lords, and it will begin Report stage on 6 March.
I am pleased to announce that we have today commenced the relevant provisions in the TCBTA and laid secondary legislation giving more detail to the measures set out in the TCBTA, with regards to the trade remedies system. Taken together, these provisions will ensure that the UK has the ability to protect UK industry against injury from unfair trade practices, and unforeseen surges in imports.
The regulations draw from both the relevant WTO agreements (i.e. the general agreement on tariffs and trade, anti-dumping agreement, the agreement on subsidies and countervailing measures and the agreement on safeguards) and are similar in many regards to the EU regulations which have applied throughout our membership of the EU. It therefore follows that the process provided for in these regulations will not be wholly unfamiliar to UK industry, and it will have the certainty of a full suite of legislation in place before we leave the EU; it has previously stressed the importance of having regulations in place sooner rather than later.
In the unlikely scenario that we leave the EU without a deal, it is in the national interest to ensure that the UK has the ability to protect UK industry against injury caused by unfair trade practices or unforeseen surges in imports. To provide this certainty, I have put in place contingency arrangements that will temporarily bring the power in-house, allowing the Department to operate trade remedy functions until the Trade Remedies Authority is legally established via the Trade Bill. The use of transitional powers in the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018 will modify that Act to ensure the trade remedies investigations directorate (TRID) will temporarily deliver these functions. The modifications will expire automatically when the TRA is legally established.
The new function will follow the procedures set out in the legislation. In practical terms, the main difference between the operation of TRID and the TRA relates to the decision-making process. When the TRA is established, it will investigate applications to determine whether there is dumping and/or subsidies or unforeseen surges, and whether UK industry has suffered injury as a consequence. If so, it will apply the economic interest test to determine whether measures are in the wider economic interest of the UK. Where the test is met, the TRA will recommend that measures should be applied, and the Secretary of State will then consider whether to accept or reject that recommendation. In doing so, the Secretary of State can only reject the recommendation on public interest grounds, and this includes a limited assessment of the TRA’s consideration of the economic interest test. While the system is operated in-house, these distinct roles will not exist and legally the Secretary of State will take on responsibility for all of these decisions. However, the intention is to keep this two-stage process as far as possible and for the TRID to carry out objective and evidence-based investigations, while the Secretary of State will take the final decision on whether to apply measures. Where the Secretary of State decides not to apply measures on public interest grounds, a statement will be laid before the House of Commons explaining the reasons, to ensure transparency.
The contingency provisions rely on transitional powers in section 56 of the TCBTA. These provisions to modify section 13 and schedules 4 and 5 of the TCBTA, together with the secondary legislation (the Trade Remedies (Dumping and Subsidisation) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 and the Trade Remedies (Increase in Imports Causing Serious Injury to UK Producers) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019) made under those powers, bring trade remedy functions that would otherwise be carried out by the TRA in-house until the Trade Bill receives Royal Assent. This will legally establish the TRA, at which point the modifications will fall away and the TRA will assume responsibility for investigating cases and making recommendations to the Secretary of State as it considers appropriate.
To minimise disruption, the policies and procedures align to the future function of the TRA as much as possible. The main difference lies in the decision-making process.
When the TRA is established, it will carry out investigations to determine whether there is dumping, subsidy or an unforeseen surge in imports, and whether UK industry has suffered injury as a consequence. If it finds this is the case, it will then consider whether the economic interest test is met before making a recommendation to the Secretary of State to apply a trade remedy measure. The Secretary of State must then consider whether to accept or reject that recommendation. The Secretary of State may only reject the recommendation on public interest grounds, which includes a limited assessment of the TRA’s consideration of the economic interest test.
While the system is operated in-house, these distinct roles will not exist. However, in order to provide continuity for business, we have sought to keep this two-stage process as far as possible. Under the temporary modifications, those staff already recruited to the shadow TRA, including those who have been trained as investigators, will form the trade remedies investigations directorate within the Department and will carry investigations using the same guidelines, as far as possible, as those that would apply if the TRA were established. Measures will still only be imposed if they satisfy the economic interest test (where there is a starting presumption in favour of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures), and there are not wider public interest considerations as to why measures should not be imposed.
Work and Pensions
Health and Disability
I would like to update hon. Members on the speech I will be delivering at Scope this afternoon.
This Government have a clear ambition to support people with health conditions and disabilities into work, where they can, and to live independently. We have already made significant progress but we need to continue to make improvements to better support people with health conditions and disabled people. I am pleased to set out today a number of measures we will implement to make improvements now and in the future to support disabled people and those with health conditions to achieve their aspirations.
We will improve and simplify the customer experience by no longer undertaking regular reviews of personal independence payment (PIP) awards for claimants at or above state pension age unless they tell us their needs have changed.
We will also be transforming the delivery of assessment services. I have established the health transformation programme to undertake the significant task of transitioning the currently separate work capability assessment (WCA) for employment and support allowance and universal credit (UC), and the PIP assessment services into one unified, integrated service from 2021. To support this, we are developing a single digital platform. An integrated approach will allow for a more joined-up claimant experience across these benefits, which takes account of the multiple interactions an individual may have with DWP. We hope that developing our own digital platform will also enable a greater range of assessment providers to compete to help us deliver this important service in the future.
To enable an integrated service, we are extending the contract for the health and disability assessment service (HDAS), which includes the delivery of the WCA, and aligning it to the duration of the extended PIP contracts. This will allow for a safe and stable service now, and as we transition to the new integrated service.
This strategic transformation will also open up new opportunities to improve our functional assessments in the future. For example, we will test whether it is beneficial to claimants requiring face-to-face assessments to offer a single assessment for UC and PIP to capture all the information required for both claims in one appointment, reducing the need for claimants of both benefits to attend multiple appointments.
My Department will be testing how we increase engagement and build a trusted and strong relationship between work coaches and claimants awaiting an assessment in universal credit, and those found to have limited capability for work. Last month, in response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee report on benefits sanctions, the Department agreed to carry out a small test where work coaches start from a point of no conditionality and scale up where appropriate, focusing on what claimants can do. This contrasts with the current approach, which starts at full conditionality and then tailors down accordingly. The Minister for Employment is taking this forward.
We will also be exploring whether we can enhance the mandatory reconsideration process to gather further evidence from claimants and make more accurate decisions sooner.
These improvements will make significant progress in better supporting those with health conditions and disabilities, but this is only the start, and we can, and should, go further.
My ambition is to continue this important conversation around the future of support and I will, alongside the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, be regularly engaging with stakeholders to enable ongoing conversations on the future of the health and disability agenda. This includes exploring how the welfare system can better meet the needs of claimants with disabilities and health conditions.
I am also committing to looking at whether the incentives we provide for and the expectations we have of employers are right. We will consult on proposals to encourage and support employers to play their part in helping disabled people and people with health conditions get into work and remain in work, and to improve access to occupational health. We will be seeking stakeholder input, and that of employers and other partners, in to how we make a real difference to the working lives of people with health conditions and disabilities.
In 2017 we made a manifesto commitment to see 1 million more disabled people in work by 2027. In the coming months I want to review this commitment to see if we can make it even more ambitious.
We constantly reflect on how we can improve and know that improvements come from listening to people and adapting. As such, we plan to commission independent research to understand the needs of disabled people to live independent lives and how health and disability benefits can better support them.