Westminster Weekly Update: Bar presence at Tory conference

One thing you must do

Read the new Lord Chancellor’s Swearing-in speech.

He’s talking about :

  • the backlog of courts
  • the rule of law
  • its constitutional responsibilities
  • the benefits that increased use of technology could bring to the legal system

What do you want to know

1. Presence of the Bar at the conference of curators

We organized two side events as part of our presence at the Conservative conference.

We also held meetings with MPs and Ministers and attended events throughout the conference.

Our first event was in partnership with the Legal Aid Practitioners Group.

The panel included:

  • our President, I. Stephanie Boyce
  • MP James Daly
  • Deputy Alex Chalk
  • Oliver Carter of Young Legal Aid Lawyers

They discussed the role legal services can play in leveling communities.

Daly opened the event by discussing his concerns about the future of the criminal duty counsel profession given the pressures it faces.

Boyce highlighted the important economic contribution that law firms make to their communities, providing good jobs across the country.

She called for a well-funded criminal justice and legal aid system, with equal pay for all practitioners within it.

Chalk welcomed the civil justice overhaul the government recently announced and said it was well overdue and said the system needed its challenges addressed over the long term.

Our second side event was in partnership with the Bar Council and the Society of Conservative Lawyers.

We talked next to:

  • Sir Bob Neill, Chairman of the Justice Select Committee
  • Bim Afolami deputy, and
  • Mark Fenhalls KC, Chairman of the Bar Council

Stephanie Boyce outlined the £60 billion that legal services contribute to our economy and the role legal services can play at the heart of UK business strategy.

Afolami argued that legal services should be at the center of UK free trade deals and highlighted his support for mediation to help keep trade disputes out of court.

Sir Bob Neill closed the event with a strong plea for the rule of law to be protected and upheld as an important principle for the Conservative Party.

2. Keynote Speeches at the Conservative Conference

The party used the event to reflect on the start of Liz Truss’ term and her priorities for the months ahead.

The event sparked a broad debate among MPs and ministers on the ‘mini-budget’ in September and its economic impact.

During the conference, the Chancellor announced that he would not pursue the reduction of the top tax rate following opposition from Conservative MPs.

The Lord Chancellor, Brandon Lewis, used his conference speech to reiterate the government’s commitment to law and order.

He commended the work done by court personnel throughout the criminal justice system. He also praised the contribution of legal services to the economy.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman outlined her approach to immigration in her speech, saying she wanted it reduced if it was not contributing to the economy.

She pledged to make the Rwandan scheme work and criticized “small boat hunting law firms” for abusing the asylum system.

Prime Minister Liz Truss closed the conference on Wednesday by calling on the country to come together in the face of the difficult times caused by Covid-19 and the invasion of Ukraine.

She attacked what she described as the “anti-growth coalition” of opposition parties and others, while saying economic growth was her number one priority for the country.

3. Presence of the Bar at the Labor Conference

We attended the Labor Party Convention from Sunday 25th to Tuesday 27th September.

We have carried out a program of events and engagements with shadow ministers, industry stakeholders and members of the Bar.

On Sunday afternoon, we partnered with the Bar Council and the Society of Labor Lawyers (SLL).

We organized a well-attended side event entitled “The Erosion of Justice: The Collapse of Courts, Legal Aid and Rule of Law”.

In his contribution, Shadow Justice Secretary Steve Reed spoke of the need to:

  • prevention
  • early intervention and
  • trauma-based practice

All with a view to favoring rehabilitation rather than punishment, in order to limit recidivism.

Our Vice President, Lubna Shuja, spoke about both the importance of the legal profession and access to justice.

She described the role of lawyers, detailing how:

  • they follow a case from start to finish, and
  • how they can handle multiple issues, from divorces to asylum claims to civil disputes

Lubna explained how important lawyers are in providing prompt advice and resolutions, which saves time and money for the client and the taxpayer.

She spoke of legal aid deserts and the government’s failure to implement the recommended minimum increase in criminal legal aid fees for lawyers.

4. Keynote Speeches at Labor Conference

The Labor Party conference focused on the failures of the Conservative government and the selling out of Labor as a preferable alternative in the next election.

Early in his opening speech, Starmer referenced the impact of backlogs in society, including in the courts.

Starmer spoke about the economic situation following the government’s mini-budget, which had seen the pound crash.

He talked about the cost of living crisis, driven by higher interest rates and higher inflation.

He also covered other issues, including:

  • Upgrade
  • green technology
  • partnership with companies
  • home ownership

Starmer said there needed to be a fundamental shift across all departments to a “prevention first” policy. He also spoke about his experience as Director of Public Prosecutions.

Rachel Reeves, in her speech as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, said Labor was the party of a strong and robust economy.

Reeves said the mini-budget proposed by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng had seen a return to trickle-down economics, which “has been tried, tested and failed”.

She continued:

  • workers are paying for tax cuts for the wealthy and that the recent mini-budget was also putting the economy at risk.
  • Putin’s war has exacerbated the problems, but the UK’s unique exposure to rising energy prices is due to the Conservative government.

It is also committed to becoming:

  • the “first green chancellor”, and proposed an alternative green prosperity plan, which would invest in solar, wind, tidal, hydrogen and nuclear energy.

It is also committed to:

  • a national wealth fund, where Labor will work with companies to invest in new industries, and the taxpayer would get a return on that investment.
  • abolish professional rates and replace them with a “fairer system”, which would allow companies to obtain revaluation discounts immediately, rather than waiting several years.

Coming

We will work closely with MPs and peers to influence a number of bills and inquiries:

National Security Bill: The bill has returned to the House of Commons and is currently at committee stage.

Upgrade and Regeneration Bill: The bill has returned to the House of Commons and is currently at committee stage.

The Trade Bill (Australia and New Zealand): The bill has returned to the House of Commons and is currently at committee stage.

Public Order Bill: The bill will return to the Commons for report stage on October 17.

Northern Ireland Protocol Bill: The bill will return to the Lords for its second reading on October 11.