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Archive for November 20th, 2009

Expenses-row MP dismisses ‘house ban’ claim

Independent: The head of the Commons committee that deals with MPs’ expenses abuse dismissed an allegation that his wife banned him from the constituency home he claimed for as “akin to Harry Potter” today.

Tory MP David Curry admitted having an affair but defended his record on expenses after being forced to stand down pending an inquiry.

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Experts can be named in family cases

Times: Expert witnesses in family cases are to be named under the next stage of opening up the family courts to the media, although social workers’ anonymity will be protected, ministers have announced.

Jack Straw intends a two-stage process in which the media will initially be denied the right to publish sensitive material under proposed legislation for the next Parliamentary session.

Under the first phase, which will last 18 months, the media will be able to name professional expert witnesses but not social workers, unless judges direct otherwise.

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Fitness test probes strength of new law firms

Times: People or companies who buy up law firms under the imminent “Big Bang” of the legal profession will have to pass an a special test to prove their “fitness to own” under plans outlined today.

They will have to pass a test of probity and of their financial position including a declaration of any criminal convictions, pending criminal charges and any disciplinary action.

They must also declare any insolvency or undischarged bankruptcy.

The proposed new rules are published by the Legal Services Board in readiness for changes what will open up the legal services market.

Under the Legal Services Act 2007, old restrictions are swept away and lawyers and other professionals can set up in new mixed practices together.

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EU gets Belgian president and British foreign minister as Blair bows out

Guardian: Europe’s eight-year quest to establish a simpler and more democratic regime came to a dramatic climax tonight when the Belgian prime minister, Herman Van Rompuy, and Britain’s Cathy Ashton, were appointed as the two top officials embodying the new system.

In a surprise move that saw Gordon Brown abandon his campaign to have Tony Blair made first president of the European Council, Lady Ashton, the current European commissioner for trade, became Europe’s foreign minister or high representative for foreign and security policy.

Rompuy, a Flemish Christian Democrat, who had been Belgium‘s prime minister for less than a year, became president of the European Council, the first permanent leader who will chair EU summits and represent the EU abroad.

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UK lawyers fight to save nine-year-old boy from deportation to Iran

Guardian: Mother says family faces jail in Tehran for possessing extracts from Satanic Verses and criticising regime

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Grandmother wins Supreme Court ruling on care of three-year-old boy

Times: A woman has won a legal battle over the care of her three-year-old grandson after the Supreme Court reversed rulings that he should live with his father.

In a ruling that strengthens the claims of grandparents to care for a grandchild, justices in Britain’s highest court ruled that where there is a dispute over custody, the child’s welfare takes precedence over the interests of biological parents.

Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore, giving the decision, said that the appeal had again raised the “vexed but highly important topic” of the significance of parenthood in private law disputes about residence and contact.

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New Digital Bill unlikely to become law before election, warn Tories

Times: Sweeping reforms to combat internet piracy, secure the future of public service broadcasting and extend digital radio are unlikely to pass into law, the Conservatives have warned.

Jeremy Hunt, the Shadow Culture Secretary, said that the Government would be “cutting it very fine” by trying to get the Digital Economy Bill through Parliament before an election. He did not think that the legislation would pass, even with Tory support.

The Conservatives back most of the proposals, which include disconnecting persistent internet pirates and facilitating the launch of services such as Google Books. But Mr Hunt said the party still had strong opposition to sections of the Bill that proposed using public money to fund regional news on commercial broadcasters.

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