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Westminster Update: Shadow Justice Secretary’s First Major Speech

Westminster Update: Shadow Justice Secretary’s First Major Speech

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What you need to know

1. Shadow Justice Secretary’s Vision for Legal Sector Growth

On April 22, Shabana Mahmood, the shadow lord chancellor, delivered her inaugural speech at Gray’s Inn, supported by the Law Society and the Bar Council. Mahmood emphasized her commitment to making the UK legal sector the fastest-growing in the world, pledging to form a renewed partnership with the legal sector as part of Labour’s industrial strategy.

She stressed the importance of upholding the rule of law, even if it means opposing government actions, and criticized the current state of the justice system, attributing its decline to political choices such as the reduction of legal aid in 2012 and the closure of numerous courts.

Mahmood specifically addressed the handling of rape cases, proposing collaboration with the judiciary to prioritize these cases and promising to commission legal advocates for rape victims in every police force area.

Additionally, she expressed concerns about the Post Office Bill’s impact on the separation of powers and vowed to seek assurances that such legislative actions remain exceptional.

Mahmood concluded with a powerful statement: “Justice must be a reality, not just an ideal.”

2. Controversial Rwanda Bill Passes

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act became law on April 25 after significant contention between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Peers had persistently attempted to amend the bill to maintain legal standards, but ultimately, all amendments were rejected.

The Act allows deportation flights to proceed, but legal challenges and potential conflicts with the European Court of Human Rights are anticipated.

3. Renters Reform Bill Progresses

On April 24, the Renters Reform Bill passed through the House of Commons. The bill aims to reform the rental market, modify repossession grounds, and abolish “no-fault” evictions (section 21). Despite delays, the bill is now moving to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.

MPs voiced concerns about the impact on the courts and the availability of housing legal aid. Conservative MP Natalie Elphicke highlighted the scarcity of legal advice for tenants and called for more resources to support court reforms.

4. Leasehold Reform Bill Debates

The Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill’s committee stage began this week, with discussions focusing on ground rent, leasehold bans for flats, and property agent regulation. Peers called for clarity and certainty on these issues, and debates are set to continue on April 29.

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