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Constitutional Change Taskforce

Hogan Lovells established a Constitutional Change Taskforce in 2014, to bring together a team of senior thought leaders from across our business to analyze, anticipate, and help clients to navigate a number of emerging issues including: the EU Referendum and the possibility of a British exit from the EU (Brexit), the Scotti...

"English votes for English laws": On 22 October 2015, the House of Commons approved the Government’s plans to allow MPs, representing English constituencies, to block legislation that only affects England. Read more in our blog: Focus on Regulation.

Further devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and greater powers for England's cities: Following the Scottish referendum and the subsequent publication of the Smith Commission report in 2014, the future of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish devolution settlements, as well as possible future devolution of power to local government in England, has been subject to much debate. In September 2014, the Hogan Lovells Constitutional Change Taskforce alerted clients to the legal mechanics which would be involved in separating Scotland from the United Kingdom. We continue to monitor such developments.

House of Lords reform: The Conservative Party's 2015 General Election manifesto stated that reform of the House of Lords was "not a priority in the next parliament".  However, since the election, a number of high profile defeats of Government policy in the House of Lords (most notably in relation to tax credits) led the Government to announce a "rapid review" of the relationship between the two Houses of Parliament, led by Lord Strathclyde.  The Strathclyde Review was published on 17 December 2015, which called for a statutory procedure to regulate the process by which the House of Lords can invite the Commons to think again when there is disagreement between the two Houses. The Government has not yet responded to the Strathclyde Review.

Voter reform: In December 2015, the Government ended the transition to individual electoral registration a year earlier than expected, meaning that anyone not registered to vote individually by the end of 2015 was removed from the register.  In addition, further voting reforms are currently under consideration, including "votes for life" for British overseas citizens and prisoner voting rights.

Freedom of Information: On 1 March 2016, the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information, chaired by Lord Burns, published a report reviewing the functioning of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The Commission was tasked with considering whether the Act gets the balance right between the need to maintain public access to information and the burden of the Act on public authorities. In summary, the report's recommendations include:

  (a)   the introduction of statutory time limits of 20 working days for public authorities to answer requests, other than in certain exceptional circumstances;

  (b)   strengthening of the prosecution powers of the Information Commissioner ("IC");

  (c)    that the statutory exemption in respect of government policy formulation be redrawn and more weight be given to the need to protect collective cabinet responsibility;

  (d)   that legislation by Parliament be introduced to clarify that the Government has the final veto over the release of information and can overturn decisions of the IC;

  (e)   the removal of the First Tier Tribunal appeal stage; and

  (f)   that no upfront charges should be introduced for Freedom of Information requests.



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