Robert's Weekly Column - Wednesday 3rd October

This week I’ve been at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, which is always a great opportunity to meet with charities and other organisations, from the National Autistic Society to the Royal Mail.  Some constituents have emailed in asking that I visit some of the charity exhibition stands that are especially important to them due to much needed help they or family have received in the past, so I have been doing just that too.  I have also been taking part in fringe meetings on issues such as knife crime and the role of charities.

The media love talk about personalities and arguments, which means that we don’t hear enough about all the proposals that we have been making this week.  Here are just a few of them:

A New Homes Ombudsman will be created, ensuring consumers buying new homes will have an independent and legally backed route of redress against developers. A higher rate of stamp duty will also be applied for non-UK residents to help make homes more affordable.

A National Retraining Scheme will ensure that every worker will have the opportunity to upskill or retrain by 2022. The Government will legislate to introduce a requirement for all large organisations, with more than 250 staff, to publish their parental leave and pay policies for prospective job applicants. A statutory duty will be created for employers to consider whether a job can be done flexibly, and make that clear when advertising. Employers will also be stopped by legislation from making deductions from workers’ tips.

Steps have been announced to crack down on unjustified delays in payments to small businesses, to create a responsible payment culture. I’m very glad about this as I am aware that some local businesses have unfortunately experienced issues with this. Although I have always done my best to help, this will help small businesses across the whole of the country.

New rules have been announced that will make it easier for rail passengers to claim compensation for delays and disruption.

At the end of last week I published an article in the New Blue Book, which is a platform for big political ideas from the centre-right, with contributions from other MPs. In my article I talk about how sticking to the rule of law is good politics and good economics, both internationally within the United Nations and International Court of Justice, and domestically at home. This is one of the reasons why I continue to work on spreading Public Legal Education, so that people can greater understand their rights and responsibilities through an improved knowledge of the legal framework. Some of my big ideas include my desire for changes to be made within the family courts to make them less adversarial, and the creation of a Statutory Code which would provide a legal framework through which sentencing guidelines could be updated without the need for constant legislation.

This week is also the start of the legal year.  As Solicitor General, it was a pleasure to attend the annual Judges Service at Westminster Abbey on Monday, representing the Government alongside the Attorney General. This is an historic event at which judges traditionally pray together for guidance in the upcoming legal year.  It is also a chance to showcase our legal system to the rest of the world, with lawyers and judges from many nations coming to the U.K. to share ideas and experiences.