• In Focus

    The Union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland: UK Government policy

    The UK Government has said it is committed to strengthening the Union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. However, strong concerns have been raised about how the Union is affected by the Northern Ireland Protocol. Differences have also emerged between the UK Government and the devolved institutions over matters such as abortion and legacy issues. The House of Lords is scheduled to debate the strengthening of the Union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain on 7 April 2022.

  • In Focus

    Levelling up: plans for the South West of England

    Research has shown that the UK is one of the most geographically unequal countries in the developed world. Addressing these inequalities by ‘levelling up’ is a priority for the Government. This article examines inequalities in the south-west of England, the Government’s strategy to address them and the reaction to these plans.

  • In Focus

    Iran, negotiations on its nuclear capabilities, and its wider regional influence

    Negotiators are reportedly close to agreeing a new deal to prevent the further development of Iran’s nuclear capabilities. However, questions remain over how to address Iran’s destabilising regional activities, including its support for armed militant groups, leading many to question whether any deal should be broader in scope or seek to pave the way for addressing these concerns.

  • In Focus

    Changes to the Highway Code on using a mobile phone while driving: regret motion

    The Government has recently broadened the scope of Highway Code rule 149, which now makes it an offence to use a hand-held mobile device for almost any purpose while driving, not just to make and receive calls and texts. The House of Lords is due to debate a regret motion on the changes. The motion raises concerns about their scope and the “piecemeal” way the Highway Code was being amended.

  • In Focus

    Unpaid taxes: the ‘tax gap’

    HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) produces estimates of the tax gap—the tax revenue HMRC should receive but does not. Its most recent estimate for 2019/20 is £35 billion, or approximately 5% of total tax liabilities. As a percentage of total taxes, the gap has been declining in recent years. The Government’s tax strategy includes measures to reduce it further. However, some commentators have argued these need more careful consideration.

  • In Focus

    Education: multi-academy trusts

    An education white paper published on 28 March 2022 set out the Government’s ambition for all schools to be part of a multi-academy trust by 2030. This policy has been criticised by some, who argue that multi-academy trusts are not more effective or efficient than other types of school structure.

  • In Focus

    Ukrainian refugees

    Over 4 million refugees have left Ukraine since 24 February 2022, when Russia launched its current invasion of the country. At least a further 6.5 million people are displaced within Ukraine. The UK Government has launched family and sponsorship schemes to allow Ukrainians to seek refuge in the UK. However, critics have alleged that the processes involved are slow and causing frustration for both Ukrainian refugees and their sponsors.

  • In Focus

    Zimbabwe: conduct ahead of 26 March 2022 elections

    Elections for some parliamentary and local government seats in Zimbabwe took place on 26 March 2022. Journalists and members of the Citizens Coalition for Change opposition party accused members of the ruling party of political violence before the poll. Activists and the opposition also said that there were irregularities with the voting register.

  • In Focus

    The UK’s horticultural sector

    In recent years, concerns have been raised about the horticultural sector’s workforce, including its dependence on foreign seasonal workers and the existence of a skills gap. The sector’s role in protecting the environment has also been discussed. This article considers both these issues and the Government’s response.

  • In Focus

    National Insurance Contributions (Increase of Thresholds) Bill

    The National Insurance Contributions (Increase of Thresholds) Bill is being fast tracked through Parliament to implement increases to national insurance thresholds announced in the March 2022 spring statement. There was broad cross-party support for the bill when it completed all its House of Commons stages on 24 March 2022. However, opposition MPs criticised the spring statement for not providing enough targeted support to those on low incomes affected by the rising cost of living.

  • In Focus

    Spring statement 2022: key announcements and analysis

    The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, presented the 2022 spring statement to the House of Commons on 23 March 2022. He said the measures in the statement would support the British people in dealing with rising costs of living. He announced some changes to the tax system and new spending commitments. Alongside the statement, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) published revised forecasts for the economy and the public finances.

  • In Focus

    Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill

    On 1 April 2022, the House of Lords is due to debate the second reading of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill. The private member’s bill would raise the minimum age of marriage and civil partnership in England and Wales to 18. It would also expand the scope of legislation dealing with forced marriage to include any conduct to facilitate the marriage of someone under the age of 18.

  • In Focus

    Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Bill

    The Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Bill would amend sections of the Equality Act 2010 relating to disabled people’s use of taxis and private hire vehicles. It aims to reduce discrimination against disabled people and address the barriers they face when accessing taxi and private hire vehicle services by creating new offences aimed at drivers and operators of such vehicles in Great Britain.

  • In Focus

    British Sign Language Bill

    British sign language (BSL) is the most commonly used sign language in the UK and is considered culturally important by the Deaf community. Although it is recognised as a language by the Government, this is not set out in law. This bill would give BSL full legal recognition as a language in England, Wales and Scotland and contains provisions to promote its use. The measures have cross-party support.

  • In Focus

    New code of practice for private parking facilities

    The Private Parking Code of Practice is intended to improve drivers’ experience of private parking facilities. It includes guidance on a number of matters, for example caps to penalty charges and how they can be appealed, signage and professional standards. Although welcomed by many for its potential impact on drivers, concerns have been raised about whether the Government has adequately assessed the impact on the operators of private parking facilities.