Monthly Archives: October 2016

Is the Treasury taking over land use planning?

By Prof Chris Willmore, Professor of Sustainability and Law (University of Bristol Law School).

site-meeting-july-2013-brimshamHousing supply was marked as one of the key issues by the incoming government in 2015. Treasury estimates put the need for additional housing in England at between 232,000 to 300,000 new units per year, a level not reached since the late 1970s and two to three times current supply.

Aiming to tackle this issue, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid took the opportunity at 2016 Autumn Conservative Party Conference to announce a package of measures to speed up house building. Successive Secretaries of State have made similar pronouncements, to be followed by rather quieter explanations of why the measures failed, with blame variously afforded to councils, developers, or ‘nimbyism’. This time the ‘nimby’s were at the front of the queue for blame. What is surprising is not the announcement, but what it tells us about the role of the town and country planning, a massive and complex regulatory system that aims to chart a path through the conflicting environment, economic and social pressures affecting decisions about the use of particular pieces of land. Continue reading

Allowable Costs under the Single Source Contract Rules: Costs for work undertaken at risk before entering into a defence contract

By Dr Luke Butler, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

38611963In an earlier blog, I introduced the Defence Reform Act 2014 (DRA), the Single Source Contract Regulations (SSCR) and the Single Source Regulations Office.[1] Collectively, these regulate the pricing of defence contracts awarded by the Ministry of Defence to a single source contractor. It is recalled that contractors can recover certain “Allowable Costs” incurred under a Qualifying Defence Contract (QDC) if they are appropriate, attributable to the contract, and reasonable in the circumstances (the so-called “AAR test”).[2]

But what if, ahead of the agreement of the contract, work relating to the contract is undertaken at risk pursuant to an “intention to proceed” (ITP) arrangement?[3] Unless the ITP fulfills the requirements for a legally binding contract, it cannot itself constitute a QDC.[4] This leaves the question whether this kind of pre-contractual work can constitute an Allowable Cost recoverable under the QDC once the QDC is in place. Continue reading

Bank Regulation and Money Laundering

By Prof Keith Stanton, Professor of Law (University of Bristol Law School).

© FCA

© FCA

It has not been a good few weeks for the banking industry. In America Wells Fargo has been rocked by a scandal in which staff have been found to have fraudulently opened accounts for customers as a way of meeting sales targets.  Deutsche Bank has teetered on the brink of disaster as a result of the size of the penalty it is facing in the US for misselling mortgage bonds. In Singapore the Monetary Authority has penalised two banks for anti-money laundering failures and control lapses and has withdrawn the license of a third bank for such failures.  For once, the major UK based banks have been out of the headlines.  However, the Financial Conduct Authority has added to the picture by penalising the Bangladeshi Sonali Bank (UK) Ltd £3.11 million and Steven Smith, the bank’s Compliance Officer and Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO) a further £17,900 for anti money laundering (AML) failures. The bank was also prohibited from accepting deposits from new customers for a period of 168 days and Smith prohibited from performing a range of functions in the industry.

The Sonali Bank decisions are further examples of the FCA using its enforcement powers to send messages to the industry.  It is part of the attempt to change the culture in banking and to reduce, if not eliminate, risk which might threaten the integrity of the banking system as a whole. It is widely accepted that money laundering poses a significant threat to the integrity of the financial system. As a result, firms are required to adopt rigorous controls aimed at minimising the risk of money laundering occurring. The facts of Sonali concerned these AML obligations. The case is a good example of the fact that the criminal offences which are commonly said to place banks under a stringent obligation to guard against money laundering are, in practice, of much less significance than regulatory action concerning failures taken by the FCA. Continue reading

Researching fee-charging McKenzie Friends in private family law cases

By Dr Emma Hitchings, Senior Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

suffolk-county-family-lawyerIn the wake of legal aid cuts, individuals in the midst of a family law dispute who cannot pay for legal representation are faced with a stark choice: settling the dispute outside of court or representing themselves as a litigant in person. However, a new market has emerged to plug this post legal aid funding gap: the fee-charging McKenzie Friend. A non-lawyer assistant who charges a fee for services provided to litigants in person.

Fee-charging McKenzie Friends are a current hot topic in the legal press. Only this week a fee-charging McKenzie Friend was jailed for perverting the course of justice in a private family law case and earlier this year the Judiciary conducted a consultation into the courts’ approach to McKenzie Friends. Continue reading

Maximising the Legitimacy of the EU’s Regulation of Geoengineering Research

By Dr Janine Sargoni, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).*

© NASA

© NASA

In what has been described as ‘nature’s own great climate experiment’, the 1992 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines provided scientists with data to refine their climate models.   After the eruption, average global temperatures dropped temporarily as particles released into the stratosphere increased the Earth’s albedo.   Solar Radiation Management (SRM) – or ‘reflecting sunlight to cool earth’ – developed notionally thereafter as a means of reducing global average temperatures resulting from increased greenhouse gases.

Pinatubo provided all kinds of data which helped increase the accuracy of climate models eventually predicting with relative certainty the temperature-cooling climatic impacts of SRM, whilst leaving relatively uncertain – or unknown – the extent of environmental impacts, such as those arising from changing patterns of rainfall.  The current limitations of models in telling us about localised environmental uncertainties could be reduced if research into the effects of SRM took place outdoors, or in the field, so to speak.  But that research would actually constitute deployment which itself would generate uncertain environmental effects.   Given these significant constraints it is not possible to establish to what extent SRM technologies are effective or reliable and therefore it is imperative that a legitimate regulatory process is secured in which decisions about its research and deployment can be taken.

This new article* sets out how risky SRM field research might be regulated in the EU in such a way as to maximise legitimacy.  It suggests that under particular conditions the EU could delegate to an independent agency powers to undertake what I call an incorporated risk assessment; an assessment in which science and politics, expertise and lay-knowledges are combined.  Legitimacy would be maximised because the EU’s regulatory framework relating to the risks of SRM field research would be legal and also responsive, flexible, deliberative and inclusive. Continue reading

It’s time for change: World Mental Health Day 2016

By Dr Judy Laing, Reader in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

world-mental-health-dayToday is World Mental Health Day and time for us to spare a thought for the millions of people around the world suffering from mental health problems. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in four people in the world will be affected by mental/neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Approximately 450 million people in the world are suffering from these conditions at any one time. This means that mental disorder is among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The WHO has urged governments to move away from large mental institutions and towards health care in the community. Governments must also ensure that mental health care is well integrated into the general health care system. Whilst many Western governments have adopted this de-institutionalisation approach, treatment facilities and standards in many countries, especially in the developing world, are still woefully inadequate. Indeed, the WHO reports that more than 40% of countries have no mental health policy and a quarter of countries don’t even have any form of mental health legislation or regulation of mental health care. Added to this is the troubling fact that mental health services across the globe are continually under-funded: 33% of countries spend less than 1% of their total health budgets on mental health care/services. Continue reading

Exploring legal approaches to climate justice: Reflections from the South Pacific

By Alice Venn, PhD Candidate (University of Bristol Law School).*

south-pacificThe South Pacific is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change impacts. The images conjured up of sinking small islands surrounded by miles of rising oceans however do little justice to the vibrant cultures, diverse landscapes and close-knit communities I recently encountered there. As part of my PhD project exploring the legal protection available to climate vulnerable states and communities I was fortunate enough, with the support of the South West Doctoral Training Centre, to be awarded a three month visiting researcher position at the University of the South Pacific in Port Vila, Vanuatu. I spent my time there gathering data, primarily through a series of interviews with key stakeholders from national government, local law firms and NGOs, as well as with a number of regional organisations during a short trip to Fiji. Continue reading