Covid19 inquiry – revised draft terms of reference

In mid-March we noted the publication, for consultation and comment, of the draft terms of reference (TOR) for the independent inquiry into the national impact of Covid-19. The inquiry was set up by the Prime Minister and will be chaired by Baroness Hallett, a retired Court of Appeal judge.

Baroness Hallett’s team have analysed responses on the TOR and made several important revisions to the inquiry’s brief. The revisions proposed sharpen the TOR by, for example

  • placing greater emphasis on studying the impact on mental health of the pandemic
  • specifically including impacts on health and care workers, and on children and young people
  • examining the effects on the safeguarding and support for victims of domestic abuse
  • adding the effects of the closures of the travel and tourism sector and of places of worship as matters for consideration
  • looking at initial contacts with health services, advice lines and primary care, and
  • considering the impact on ante- and post-natal care

Other revisions of a more functional nature touch on the collaboration between national, devolved, and local government and add the use of research and expert evidence to the need to consider how data was used and made available.

The inquiry team also recommends reviewing not only how decisions were made, communicated and implemented but also how they were recorded. This point speaks to a concern that private e-mail or WhatsApp accounts may have been used rather than official departmental channels.

I am grateful to my colleague Rachel Quinn for carefully examining the documents and preparing the attached note which highlights Baroness Hallett’s proposed revisions. New text is shown in yellow and the turquoise highlighting shows text which has been moved.

The revised terms of reference for the inquiry were sent to the Prime Minister in May. At the time of writing, there has so far been no formal response. The inquiry continues to make some progress, however, and today announced the appointment of 49 junior counsel to assist with investigations, in addition to 11 QCs who were appointed at the beginning of May.

For the changes to the Annex: Recommended Terms of Reference, please click here and see the highlighted sections.

Written by Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy & Government Affairs (Alistair.Kinley@blmlaw.com).

Automated Vehicles: Law Commission proposes ‘wrap up’ event on AVs in mid-March 2022

On 1 February we posted our short summary of the latest recommendations on automated driving via a link at the end of this update. We’re now working on releasing a series of short vlogs covering particular aspects of the new legal regime set out by the Law Commission (including: pre-market regulation, type approval, access to vehicle data and both civil liability and criminal offences).

The Commission itself has just issued an email to stakeholders asking for views on holding “a more general gathering in mid-March (virtual and/or in-person) to mark the end of the project … in conjunction with colleagues at the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and broader DfT teams working in automated vehicle policy.”

Given that it has been nearly a year since the Commission’s final consultation on automated vehicles closed, it seems to us that such an event – to be held during the week of 14 March and likely to be in hybrid format – is both timely and worthwhile. We have already responded to that effect and should you be interested in doing the same by Thursday 17 February please click through to the Law Commission’s online survey here.


Written by Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy and Government Affairs

alistair.kinley@blmlaw.com

NI legislation on Vnuk to be published next week and due to move quickly through the Assembly

Our blogs over the last fortnight have reported on (i) the progress of the Motor Vehicles (Compulsory Insurance) Bill in the Commons and (ii) plans to introduce similar reforms in Northern Ireland.

This morning the Infrastructure Committee of the NI Assembly noted, from written briefing provided by the Department, that the proposed NI legislation “largely mirrors the Bill in Westminster.” The Committee was therefore prepared, albeit reluctantly, to agree to the NI Bill proceeding via ‘Accelerated Passage’ (AP). It will be published and start its progress though the Assembly on Monday 7 February 2022.

Today’s agreement to AP means that the necessary legislative stages can be taken much more quickly than usual and opens the real prospect of this Bill coming into force in the second quarter of the year.


Written by Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy and Government Affairs at BLM (alistair.kinley@blmlaw.com)