Fatal MERS case reported in KuwaitKuwaiti health officials have notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about a fatal MERS-CoV case, in a 78-year-old man from Kuwait City who owned camels and had frequent contact with them, according to a WHO statement today.The man developed symptoms on Sep 8 and was hospitalized 5 days later. He died on Sep 19, and contact tracing among his household members and healthcare workers is under way, the WHO said. It added that the man had no known exposure to other MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) cases or other risk factors in the 14 days before he got sick.His infection is Kuwait’s fourth MERS-CoV detection and its first since March 2014, according to a case list kept by FluTrackers, an infectious disease news message board.The WHO said the case lifts the global number to 1,570 MERS cases, which includes at least 555 deaths.Sep 23 WHO statement FluTrackers MERS-CoV case list Researchers pinpoint soft palate as key to flu virus evolutionThe soft palate—the fleshy portion at the back of the roof of the mouth—appears to play a key role in influenza virus evolution, according to a ferret study by researchers with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).The surprise findings were published as a letter today in Nature.Previous research has shown that airborne transmissibility depends on whether a flu virus’s hemagglutinin (HA) protein can bind to a certain type of receptor on human respiratory cells. Some viruses bind better to alpha 2-6 glycan receptors, which are found primarily in mammals (including people), while others are better adapted to alpha 2-3 glycan receptors, found primarily in birds.To help determine genetic mutations that affect airborne transmission, the team took a 2009 H1N1 virus, which binds well to alpha 2-6 receptors, and made four mutations in its HA molecule to make it better suited to bind to alpha 2-3 receptors. They then introduced the virus into ferrets, which are typically studied to model human flu infections.The next day, uninfected ferrets were placed in cages separated from infected ferrets by a perforated barrier. Nasal secretions were collected from the animals for 2 weeks. “To our surprise, the engineered flu virus was transmitted by the airborne route to uninfected ferrets just as well as the original non-mutated virus,” said Kanta Subbarao, MD, of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in an NIH press release.Sequencing of the virus then determined that airborne transmission was associated with a single genetic change in the mutated virus’s HA, and it appeared to have happened within 24 hours in the ferrets. Tissue samples from the animals’ upper and lower respiratory tracts helped the investigators pinpoint the soft palate—which has surfaces facing both the mouth and nasopharyngeal region—as the key site for virus mutation.”Historically, the soft palate has not been examined in animal models of influenza,” said Subbarao.The researchers are now trying to determine the exact role the soft palate plays in flu virus transmission, according to an MIT news release. They hypothesize that flu viruses with a superior ability to transmit through the air outcompete other viruses in the region.Sep 22 Nature letter Sep 22 NIH news release Sep 22 MIT news release Study shows poultry contact very common in Egyptian H5N1 casesH5N1 avian flu cases during the peak months of November 2014 through April 2015 in Egypt were almost exclusively associated with poultry contact and were highly correlated to H5N1 poultry outbreaks, according to a study yesterday in Emerging Infectious Diseases.Researchers from Egypt and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data on 165 patients who were hospitalized for H5N1 during the 6-month study period, 51 of whom (31%) died. They compared their data with information from 342 Egyptian patients from Mar 20, 2006, through Apr 20, 2015, 299 of whom (87%) contracted H5N1 from November through April.Of the 165 recent patients, 163 (99%) reported exposure to domestic poultry 1 to 2 weeks before symptom onset, with 35% recounting exposure to dead birds, 19% to sick birds, and 35% to healthy birds. About 58% of patients were involved in breeding, 24% in slaughtering, and 21% in preparing poultry. Seventy percent were exposed at home.Only 1 patient among the 165 reported wearing personal protective equipment while handling poultry.The investigators also reported six clusters of cases in the group comprising 12 patients.They found the data between the earlier and more recent groups of patients to be similar. The percentage of cases that were part of a cluster was 7.3% in the more recent patients, compared with 6.8% in the earlier ones. The median percentage of monthly H5N1 detections among humans sampled was 5.4% in the recent cases, compared with 2.9% in the earlier cases, which was not a significant difference.The researchers also noted that the number of human cases each month was highly correlated with the number of H5N1 poultry outbreaks each month as identified by agriculture officials.The authors conclude, “Although the characteristics of case-patients during 2014-15 were similar to those of previous seasons and do not suggest increased efficiency of H5N1 transmission between humans, [the Ministry of Health] would be warranted in examining H5N1 virus circulating in Egypt for genomic markers of mammalian adaptation.”Sep 22 Emerg Infect Dis study H5N1 strikes Nigeria, Vietnam as H5N2 hits South African ostriches againNigeria and Vietnam have confirmed multiple new H5N1 avian flu outbreaks, and South Africa has reported another H5N2 outbreak in ostriches, according to several reports posted by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) yesterday and today.Reports of H5N1 outbreaks continue to mount in Nigeria, which has notified the OIE of 78 events this year after filing reports of 7 farm outbreaks yesterday and 1 today. Agriculture officials detailed 6 outbreaks yesterday and 1 today in Rivers district in the south, as well as an outbreak yesterday in Oyo district in the southwest. The event in Oyo began on Aug 17, while those in Rivers district began from Sep17 to Sep 19.Together, 7,788 birds died of H5N1 among 27,932 chickens in the outbreaks, and the rest were destroyed to curb disease spread. The affected farms range in size from 1,209 to 13,203 susceptible poultry.Sep 22 OIE report on Nigeria Sep 23 OIE report on NigeriaIn Vietnam, H5N1 struck village flocks in Vinh Long province in the south and Ha Tinh in the northcentral part of the country, according to an OIE report yesterday.The Vinh Long outbreak began Sep 6 and killed 940 birds, with the remaining 550 culled. The Han Tinh outbreak affected 200 poultry, killing 85. The surviving 915 birds were likewise euthanized.Of 2,490 birds in both flocks, 1,140 birds were infected and 1,025 died, while 1,465 were destroyed. Response steps such as control of poultry movement and disinfection have been initiated, the report said.Sep 22 OIE report on VietnamIn South Africa two flocks comprising 1,472 ostriches on separate commercial farms were affected by low-pathogenic H5N2 avian flu in Western Cape province in the southwest, officials noted in an OIE report posted today.One farm detected 303 cases among 494 birds, while the other had 40 cases in a flock of 978. No ostrich deaths were reported. Officials implemented screening and isolation steps but did not destroy any of the flocks. Since August 2014, South Africa has reported 29 outbreaks of H5N2 in ostriches.Sep 23 OIE report on South Africa Southern Hemisphere flu activity slowsInfluenza in the Southern Hemisphere is showing signs of an end-of-season decline and is likely past its peak in Australia and New Zealand, the WHO said in an update.Flu activity seems to be past its peak in Australia except in South Australia, where it continued to increase with influenza B strains dominating, followed by H3N2, an “A” strain. In New Zealand active flu might have peaked in mid-August. In that country, H3N2 and flu B have predominated throughout the season. Activity of influenza-like illness (ILI) was still above the seasonal threshold but below the alert level.Flu activity remains low in temperate South America, but ILI activity sharply increased in Chile, along with increasing influenza detections. Influenza A is most common in that country.African nations reported few flu virus detections, but influenza A appears to be dominant in East Africa and influenza B in South Africa.Flu activity is low in tropical Asia and other Northern Hemisphere nations but picked up a bit in India, predominantly caused by 2009 H1N1.Globally in recent weeks 74.5% of flu viruses have been A strains, while 25.5% are B strains. Of the influenza A viruses subtyped, 74.2% were H3N2 and 25.8% 2009 H1N1.Sep 21 WHO update
Oct 15, 2020 WTO: Members’ Development Status (Part I)By Elizabeth Morgan The development status of members, i.e. whether they are designated developed, developing or least developed countries (LDCs), has now become a contentious issue at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Note that all WTO Members are not countries. Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) are customs territories…August 21, 2019In “Featured”WTO: Members’ Development Status (Part III): Implications for CARICOM MembersWhen the World Trade Organization (WTO) resumes work shortly, the Members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), like others, will need to be prepared to address the issues on WTO reform which include proposals on special and differential treatment (S&DT) and differentiation/graduation. In addition, preparations will commence for the 12th WTO…September 4, 2019In “CARICOM”What has been CARICOM’s Foreign Trade Strategy and Agenda?By Elizabeth Morgan On February 20, 2019, my article in the Gleaner was titled “Needed: A CARICOM Foreign Trade Strategy and Agenda”. On September 2, 2020, I addressed “Jamaica’s Trade Performance: Turbulence Ahead”. This article was relevant to CARICOM generally. Last week, referring specifically to Jamaica’s Cabinet appointments in Foreign…September 16, 2020In “Indepth”Share this on WhatsApp Oct 16, 2020 Oct 16, 2020 The World Trade Organization (WTO) was established in 1995 superseding the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) to negotiate, adjudicate and administer global trade rules. The WTO resulted from the last GATT Round, the 1986-1994 Uruguay Round (UR). The Permanent Representative of Guyana to WTO Ambassador John Deep Ford (right) was appointed Chair of the WTO Agriculture Committee. By the first WTO Ministerial Conference (MC1), Singapore, December 1996, many developed countries and trading powers were talking about launching a new round of multilateral trade negotiations which would address newer issues such as investment, competition policy (fair trade), government procurement, trade facilitation, core labour standards and environment standards. Most developing countries, including CARICOM Members, were not enthusiastic about entering into a new round of negotiations so soon after the GATT UR as they were still struggling to implement the resulting Agreements. Thereafter, there was continued strong opposition to a new Round from developing countries and global non-governmental organizations (NGOs); recall the Seattle (MC3) conflagration in 1999. The new round was not launched until MC4 at Doha, Qatar, in November 2001, with much pressure exerted by the developed countries. The compromise was that the Round would focus on development issues. New issues, investment, government procurement, competition policy and trade facilitations, would be further studied. Labour and environment standards were dropped. This Doha “Development” Round would address agricultural products, non-agricultural products (industrial including fisheries) known by the acronym, NAMA, services, and various trade-related and development specific issues including Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) and Small Economies. In CARICOM’s interest, a work programme emerged to specifically benefit Small Vulnerable Economies (SVEs). The general aim of the Round was to improve market access and enable developing countries to increase their share in global trade. This Round was scheduled to conclude in 2005 by MC6. In 2004, the WTO General Council decided to commence negotiations on Trade Facilitation from the group of new issues. By MC6 at Hong Kong, December 2005, it was clear that the Round could not be completed within the set timeframe. Resulting from this Conference was the Aid for Trade Initiative. It encouraged donors to target development support specifically to building trade infrastructure in developing countries in order to improve their ability to benefit from trade. Aid for Trade was viewed with skepticism by many developing countries considering it an appeasement attempt as their development concerns were not being satisfactorily addressed. From 2006, the Doha Round negotiations continued with limited progress. Agriculture was a particularly difficult issue as developed countries demanded increased access into the markets of emerging developing countries and developing countries had concerns about subsidies applied in developed countries. It was also evident that development, as defined by developing countries, was not at the core of the Round. Development for developed countries was all about market access. In S&DT concessions, developed countries were also wanting emerging economies and middle income developing countries to be graduated or given more differentiated treatment. WTO Members included in this category were China, Brazil, Singapore, Chile, India, Taiwan, and others. CARICOM countries could also be affected. This S&DT proposal from the USA and others was another bone of contention. An opportunity to break the deadlock and conclude the Round was missed in 2008. In the intervening period, countries began to increasingly negotiate complex bilateral and plurilateral free trade agreements mainly outside of the WTO. These included the Trans-Partnership (TPP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). Progress in the Doha Round was not recorded until MC9, Bali, Indonesia, December 2013, when the Agreement on Trade Facilitation was concluded and adopted. Jamaica was actively engaged in the conclusion of this Agreement. Thereafter, the developed countries began to speak of the Doha Development Agenda, not Round. The focus was on specific issues such as application of subsidies in fishing (Fisheries Subsidies). By MC10 in Nairobi, Kenya, December 2015, the developed countries, the original proponents of the Round, were in search of means to suspend it. The view was that they actually did not want to declare the Round’s death in Kenya, the first African developing country to host a Ministerial Conference. The Nairobi Declaration reflected the divisions in the WTO on the Round’s status recognizing that some Members reaffirmed it, while others did not believing new approaches were necessary to achieving desired outcomes. This signalled that the developed countries had not gotten what they wanted and were ready to move on. MC11, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2017, was considered by many as a requiem for the Round. This Conference ended without a formal ministerial declaration. The Chair, Argentine Minister Susana Malcorra, concluded in her Statement that there would be life after Buenos Aires but it was for the Members to give meaning and value to it. The situation at the WTO became more difficult with the election of US President Donald Trump in November 2017. The Trump Administration’s “America First” policy was anti-multilateralism and particularly belligerent towards the WTO. There was talk of the US withdrawing from the Organization. The Administration did not favour multilateral trade negotiations; refused to approve members of the WTO Appellate Body in the dispute settlement mechanism; moved towards more protectionist policies unilaterally applying tariffs on steel and aluminum; and commenced a bilateral dispute with China. Perhaps, fearful of US withdrawal, feeling that the global trade environment had radically changed and concerned about the WTO’s future, some Members began to look at a new direction for the Organization considering a work programme on other issues, such as e-commerce, state-owned enterprises, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), women’s economic empowerment, and investment facilitation. The EU, Canada, and other developed countries put forward proposals and begun consultations on WTO reform. For political reasons, some developing countries have joined these initiatives. Hence the Financial Times’ conclusion that the Doha Round has died. There are still many developing countries from all regions who do not share this view of the Round’s demise and are uncomfortable with current proposals for WTO reform. Thus, it is reported that the atmosphere in the Organization is quite unstable as Members begin to look to MC12 in Astana, Kazakhstan, in June 2020. Where does CARICOM stand? It seems that CARICOM believes that there is unfinished business in the Doha Round especially for SVEs. On WTO reform, it appears that CARICOM needs to give this matter more serious consideration. The CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) and Member States need to be following developments at the WTO more closely, assessing the state of play, and the implications for the Region in order to arrive at clear positions to guide delegations. Oct 16, 2020 CARPHA Partners with, PAHO to Ensure Caribbean States’… By Elizabeth Morgan In an article on December 21, 2018, the Financial Times declared that the WTO Doha Round had finally died a merciful death after nearly a decade spent comatose. This reflected the view of the developed countries, which was not necessarily supported by all developing countries. WTO Secretary General Roberto Azevêdo and Jamaica’s Foreign Minister Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith CMO says Saint Lucia at critical stage of COVID-19 outbreak Barbados releases new COVID-19 Travel Protocols Submitted by Elizabeth Morgan, Specialist in International Trade Policy and International Politics. Share this:PrintTwitterFacebookLinkedInLike this:Like Loading… You may be interested in… Six Eastern Caribbean countries deemed safe for travel – CDC
The cumulative number of diagnoses and deaths statewide versus date. Source: New Mexico Department of Health. Created by Eli Ben-Naim
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There are fears that the deepening crisis will have a negative impact on a Peruvian economy which had been performing relatively healthily in recent years, with low inflation.Scenes of oxygen shortages in Peru as Covid-19 crisis deepensAccording to gasworld’s Business Intelligence’s 2018 report on the market, in the decade between 2008 and 2018 GDP grew by an average of 4.9% when adjusted for inflation.Telecommunications and financial services have been the main contributors to a growing Peruvian economy which still has a long way to go until it fully modernises and, therefore, a great deal of potential to be realised.In recent years, economic activity in the country has benefitted from a favourable international context, particularly from improving terms of trade. The combination of economic modernisation, natural resource abundance and continued improvements in economic governance and political stability had been helping Peru to emerge as one of the most stable economies in Latin America.Industrial gas growthAgainst this improving backdrop, the industrial gas market in Peru has been steadily growing too, at a similar average annual growth rate of 4.5% for the decade from 2008-2018. This resulted in a Peruvian industrial gases market worth just under $170m in 2018.The current crisis at the hands of coronavirus puts the attention squarely on the country’s healthcare sector and oxygen supply, two sectors that go hand-in-hand. Oxygen is indeed the most prominent gas in Peru by revenues, however it is to the metallurgy business that it is perhaps most closely linked.Metallurgy is the most important end-use sector in Peru from a point of view of gas sales, accounting for almost half of the revenues in the region (46.5%) in 2018. The next two main revenue generating end-users are the refining and manufacturing industries, with market shares of 16.6% and 8%, respectively. All the other end-user markets are responsible for less than 7.5% of the industrial gas revenues in Peru, including the healthcare sector – which made up just 7.2% of industrial gas revenues (primarily oxygen) in 2018.
‘Like many others who will reply who regularly deal with vulnerable members of the community, we have real concerns about the increase in litigants in person which will result from these reforms – both in terms of their ability to navigate areas of law on their own, which we believe the Ministry of Justice is over-estimating, and in terms of the impact on the courts and tribunals system.’Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive, LawWorks ‘A father who is denied contact with his children will no longer be eligible for legal aid. I submit that that cannot be right, not only because of the father’s rights to see his children but because of the rights of the children, who have no access to justice.’ Anna Soubry MP (Conservative), House of Commons, 3 February Last week’s adjournment debate on legal aid cuts in the House of Commons marked a change in tone among MPs who, before Christmas, had not made much of the Ministry of Justice’s proposed £350m annual cut to the legal aid budget. What became evident in the debate, secured by Labour MP Yvonne Fovargue, is that MPs are starting to feel the pressure on this issue at a constituency level – from solicitors, citizens advice bureaux, barristers and groups who work with, and represent, vulnerable people. It is striking that even where coalition MPs from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats felt obliged to preface their contributions to the debate with the party line, blaming the last Labour government for the UK’s deficit, they moved quickly on to points criticising the proposals to reduce legal aid – especially civil legal aid, which will bear the brunt of the budget cuts. It seems that what Law Society head of legal aid, Richard Miller, refers to as the ‘solid hostility’ to the cuts he has encountered at the 13 ‘roadshow’ meetings held by the Society since the cuts were announced, has been mobilised. Spend to saveOn Hilsenrath’s last point, supporters of legal aid will be pleased that the money legal aid saves the taxpayer has been referenced in debates. Justice for All insists: ‘The right advice early on can save £10 for every £1 invested and keep families together in their homes, and in work and education.’ It is a point now being made in debates by members of all of the main political parties. Bradshaw said the figure saved for the public purse was £12.20 for every pound of public money it receives. Value for money was also mentioned by Conservative Amber Rudd, who noted in the debate how much free time legal aid practitioners often dedicated to a case. But if that financial issue is more widely understood than previously, it may not necessarily lead to a fundamental change in policy. The problem is that the budget is preset, as agreed in the comprehensive spending review, with only the small print of how the saving should be achieved to be decided. The Law Society expects to see legislation that backs up the legal aid cuts by, or in, May this year for the MoJ to meet the timetable set with the Treasury. Here, challenges in the courts may have a role to play in delaying or frustrating the simple, but arbitrary, changes proposed to legal aid provision. It is early days, but the courts have a chequered history on cases related to the spending review. Last December, the Fawcett Society was unsuccessful in its attempt to bring a judicial review when it argued the government had acted unlawfully in formulating the budget last June ‘without paying due regard to gender equality laws’. The government conceded though that gender impact assessments did apply to the budget and should have been carried out in two key areas – the public sector pay freeze and certain benefit changes. A case against local government body London Councils had more success, perhaps because it was able to link arguments to more specific instances of services provision. Judicial review proceedings were brought by service users of two of the organisations affected by London Councils’ proposed cuts. On 28 January, Mr Justice Calvert-Smith quashed a decision by London Councils to cut £10m from its £26.4m grants scheme to voluntary organisations in the capital. Louise Whitfield, a solicitor at Pierce Glynn who acted for the claimants, explained at the time: ‘This case establishes that even in the current economic climate, it remains of paramount importance that public sector funding cut decisions are properly assessed for their gender, disability and race equality impacts. If they are not, public sector funding cut decisions will be unlawful.’ As well as supporting the campaign against legal aid cuts, human rights group Liberty has suspicions about the legality of proposed cuts. As Liberty notes in its own submission to the legal aid consultation: ‘The provision of legal aid is in some cases demanded by the UK’s obligations to provide a fair trial under the European Convention on Human Rights.’ Liberty’s publicity officer Rachel Robinson says Liberty will examine any legislation closely for its human rights impact: ‘Human rights protections become academic if representation is cut. At a time of collective belt-tightening, access to justice for the vulnerable is more important than ever.’ Supporters of legal aid will feel reassured that some of their key points are being recognised and repeated in parliament, and those organising the campaigns reveal that they are finding support for legal aid on all sides of the House, and not just from the ‘usual suspects’. Before the new year, parliamentarians as a group had made comparatively little fuss about the proposed £350m cut to legal aid. Here a grassroots campaign in MPs’ surgeries, local meetings and correspondence is having an effect, providing granular detail for MPs about the impact of cuts on groups of vulnerable people for whom they do casework. But given the tight timescale, supporters of legal aid still face a huge uphill struggle – they need nothing less than a U-turn. The opposition front bench makes a good point in saying that recommendations from the Carter Review, which would have made savings in the legal aid budget, are not being taken forward. But that still leaves quite a shortfall. Aside from the prospect of harrying ministries and councils in the courts, perhaps the best chance for wringing a change of policy from the MoJ, is to get the case accepted in other government departments that early, free legal advice really does save them money. Making friendsThe recent political visibility of legal aid reflects both the amount of campaigning work concerned groups have done, but also a change in their strategy to broaden the appeal of legal aid. As Jane Backhurst, head of communications, campaigns and policy at the Law Centres Federation, explains: ‘The challenge has been to change the way we campaign, building a broad coalition that goes beyond a core of legal aid providers. We have also been learning to be better at leveraging the incredible contacts that legal aid practitioners have built over time – and making those relationships work for us.’ Points made by MPs in the adjournment debate incorporated recognisable parts of briefings sent out in the preceding week by the Law Society, umbrella campaign group Justice for All, Resolution and others. But MPs seemed persuaded to speak by approaches from members of that ‘broad coalition’ in their constituencies. Lib Dem Stephen Lloyd cited his contact with the Brighton Housing Trust’s Eastbourne advice centre. Fovargue quoted the experience of her local citizens advice bureau. Conservative Anna Soubry also referred to her local CAB, as did Labour MP and former minister Ben Bradshaw. Liberal Democrat Tom Brake has already persuaded justice minister Jonathan Djanogly to meet representatives from his local CAB. Conservative Paul Uppal raised concerns about the impact of withdrawing legal aid from medical negligence cases after listening to cases brought to his constituency surgery; he also questioned the impact on other areas of public spending. Proposed changes to conditional fee agreements, Uppal observed, when combined with the withdrawal of aid, would lead to scenarios where, ‘in essence we will have public money chasing public money, in a circle that will not deliver legal justice on a value-for-money basis’. MPs’ own constituency casework gives many of them a strong empathetic link with the work of law centres and CABs. As Conservative Guto Bebb put it in the adjournment debate: ‘Since I was elected in May, I have been astounded by the amount of quasi-legal casework. I find myself dealing with cases on which I am not qualified to offer advice or guidance.’ Change in the weatherLabour MP Diane Abbott’s speech reminded the House of the way discourse on legal aid had traditionally been handled: ‘Sadly, when governments of all colours consider legal aid, they seem to zero in on the lawyers and the money that they make, rather than the millions of people whom they help.’ This debate did not reflect that usual discourse – even in the response of justice minister Jonathan Djanogly. Twenty MPs had applied to the Speaker to speak in the debate, and most were appalled by the prospect of legal aid cuts as proposed in the consultation paper. What has brought about that change in the tone of the legal aid debate? The CAB provides the central contact point for the Justice for All campaign. The organisation’s Gail Emerson confirms that the aim of the campaign from the start was to bring in support from charities and campaigning groups as well as advice providers. Scope, RNIB, Liberty and the Fawcett Society were among the organisations that added their weight to the efforts of the Law Society, CAB, the Law Centres Federation, and the Criminal bar. This is a campaigning model, Backhurst says, that borrows heavily from the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign, with which she was also involved. The first, small step was a Christmas e-card sent to all MPs, showing Father Christmas bearing an enormous sack of ‘constituents’ problems’, and the slogan below: ‘Thousands of your constituents came to legal and advice agencies for help this year. Where will you refer them to next year?’ More important, as alliances started to develop and the campaign broadened, was the formal launch and mass lobby in parliament of Justice for All on 12 January. The event put clients helped by free legal advice centre stage in a series of presentations. It was an approach that the Law Society has been urging on solicitors in its own legal aid roadshows, and will build on with the launch of its ‘Sound off for Justice’ campaign – aimed, again, at drawing in wider public support. What has also been better conveyed to political representatives is the degree to which pro bono legal advice is dependent on a functioning legal aid system. LawWorks chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath is vocal on this issue: ‘From the point of view of a national pro bono brokerage and clearing house, our major concern is around the misunderstanding of the relationship between pro bono and the voluntary sector.’ The legal aid consultation paper, she notes, suggests that pro bono may increase to fill the gaps left by civil legal aid. ‘But,’ she adds, ‘the reality is that pro bono programmes will shrink without the partnership and support of the voluntary sector.’ In addition, Hilsenrath argues that the paper overlooks the benefits and cost effectiveness of early intervention: ‘This is, of course, the great value added of free legal advice clinics, which depend on the advice agencies for infrastructure and support.’ ‘Human rights protection becomes academic if representation is cut. As soon as we see a bill before parliament, we will be examining it closely for its human rights impact.’ Rachel Robinson, publicity officer, Liberty ‘Nobody who has seen people queuing outside their law centre for help could support any action by any government with undermined that movement… the legal aid reforms will also undermine the practice of many high-street solicitors, who are often close to and help their community.’Diane Abbott MP (Labour), House of Commons, 3 February ‘The Society is concerned that the civil legal aid scope cuts in social welfare law such as debt, welfare benefits, housing and education together with clinical negligence, immigration, employment and family law appear to be targeted against areas of law which are most relevant to the poorest and most vulnerable members of society including people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and women.’ Parliamentary brief, The Law Society What they said ‘The narrow definition of domestic violence cases will leave women and children vulnerable and less able to seek help; the failure to address the very high-cost criminal cases is a mistake and a missed opportunity.’Andy Slaughter MP (Labour), House of Commons, 3 February ‘The challenge has been to change the way we campaign, building a broad coalition that goes beyond a core of legal aid providers. We have also been learning to be better at leveraging the incredible contacts that legal aid practitioners have built over time – and making those relationships work for us.’Jane Backhurst, head of communications, campaigns and policy at the Law Centres Federation
A former London partner at international firm Sidley Austin is one of 10 individuals who have been charged with tax fraud over a film investment scheme.Matthew Cahill, who has been charged with conspiracy to cheat the public revenue, was admitted in 1992. He has left Sidley Austin for personal reasons, according to a spokesman for the firm.According to the Financial Times, the 10 have been charged over their alleged involvement with Zeus Partners, a business which sold film schemes generating tax relief to wealthy investors. It reports that an issue in the case is whether a £134m investment scheme sold by the company in 2008 was abusive.The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that Cahill has been charged with two counts of conspiracy to cheat and one count of cheating HM Revenue & Customs.Criminal defence firm Corker Binning, which has been instructed to represent Cahill, declined to comment.A spokesperson for Sidley Austin, said: ‘Matthew Cahill has withdrawn from the firm for personal reasons. The personal reasons are not related to the business of the firm or any legal work performed by Matthew while at the firm.’
The lord chancellor has set out long-awaited proposals for calculating the ‘discount rate’ applied to personal injury settlements. Under proposed legislation, the rate will be set by reference to rates of return on ‘low risk’ rather than ’very low risk’ investments as at present. The rate will also be reviewed at least every three years. A statement today said that ministers are keen to engage on the issue ahead of a bill being introduced into parliament. A consultation on the issue closed in May and draft legislation will be published today to change the law.Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary David Lidington said: ’We want to introduce a new framework based on how claimants actually invest, as well as making sure the rate is reviewed fairly and regularly. In developing our proposals, we have listened carefully to the views of others, and we will continue to engage as we move forward.’ The current rate, a top-up of 0.75%, was set by former lord chancellor Liz Truss in February, prompting protests and heavy lobbying by insurance companies. Today’s statement says that, if the new system were to be applied today, the rate might be ’in the region of 0% to 1%’. The proposals envisage that a review of the discount rate would be started within 90 days of the new law coming into force. The new rate will not apply retrospectively.The government proposes to review the rate at least every three years in future and create a role for an independent expert panel in the process.Joe Egan, president of the Law Society, welcomed the pledge to review the rate regularly and to bring in independent experts.But he called on the Ministry of Justice to commission further and more in-depth research into claimant investment behaviour, and to offer claimants to option of lump sum payments or periodical payment orders.’These proposed changes to the methodology for setting the rate must not undermine the key principle that those affected should get 100% of the compensation they are owed,’ said Egan.’Those who have suffered lifelong injury need to have reassurance that the sum the wrongdoer is ordered to pay will genuinely be sufficient to meet their needs for the whole of their lives and will not run out leaving them unable to afford necessary treatment and support.’The needs of people seriously injured through another’s negligence should be considered to at least the same extent as the interests of defendants and the public purse.’Huw Evans, director general of the Association of British Insurers, said today the decision will prove ‘fairer for claimants, customers and taxpayers’. In a statement, he added: ‘The reforms would see the discount rate better reflect how claimants actually invest their compensation in reality and will provide a sound basis for setting the rate in the future.’If implemented it will help relieve some of the cost pressures on motor and liability insurance in a way that can only benefit customers.’The Financial Times reported that shares in insurance companies rose on the news, with FTSE 100 outfit Direct Line climbing as much as 4%. Last month Direct Line posted sharply higher interim profits and boosted its dividend, after revealing that the impact of the discount rate change had been less severe than feared. Other insurers followed suit.Brett Dixon, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said the discount rate must be set to meet the needs of catastrophically injured people.’Someone with a life-long, life-changing injury such as brain damage or a spinal injury cannot afford to take any risks with how his compensation is invested,’ said Dixon.’He needs the money to keep a roof over his head, to fund his equipment, and to feed and clothe him and pay for his care for the rest of his life. We need to examine the detail of the Ministry of Justice’s response, but what I can say is that the new formula for calculating the rate will be critical to injured people.’
Uganda’s High Court has ordered a chain of private schools to be closed following over concerns about poor sanitation and its curriculum, the BBC reports.The Bridge International Academies group says it offers affordable, high-quality education to its 12,000 pupils, who often come from poor families.The country’s Education Ministry says the 63 schools must now close immediately but the group which is supported by foundations such as those set up by Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates says it will appeal.A judge said the Bridge International school authorities had been given several opportunities to meet the national standards but had failed to do so.The group which is US-owned first opened its schools in Uganda in 2015 but has seen a number of accusations including poor sanitation, inadequate infrastructure and not following the national curriculum leveled against them.The government ordered their closure in July also alleging that the schools were recruiting unqualified teachers, the organization went to court to challenge the decision insisting it follows Uganda’s public education system, with seven years of primary school and children starting from the age of six.People who support Bridge International argue that government schools are worse off with nearly 70% of children dropping out before they finish primary education.The Bridge International Academies group also operates in India and Nigeria, and in January entered into a partnership with the Liberian government to run its primary schools.