Charlotte Street Partners

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DAILY BRIEFING

No child's play

Written by Javier Maquieira, senior associate 
Edited by Adam Shaw, associate partner
7 October 2021

Good morning,

The constitutional row between the Scottish and UK governments took a new turn yesterday when judges at the supreme court ruled that provisions in two bills passed by MSPs were beyond Holyrood’s devolved powers.
 
One of those bills is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, which was backed unanimously by the Scottish parliament in March, following years of campaigning work by children’s commissioners, civil society, academics, and children and young people themselves.
 
While the Scottish government’s commitment to formally enshrining the international human rights treaty in Scots law “in its entirety” has been a cause for much celebration, the passage of the bill raised the question about whether certain parts would go beyond what the law says Holyrood can legislate on.
 
Ultimately, the UNCRC bill could not be implemented because of a legal challenge on the limits of devolution brought by UK government law officers.
 
The result of that challenge came in yesterday, when the president of the supreme court, Lord Reed, delivered the judgement, saying that although justices did not take issue with the Scottish parliament’s decision to incorporate the UNCRC, the way the bill had sought to do this “breaches the limitations imposed on the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament by the Scotland Act”.
 
Out of the four sections found to go beyond the power of the Scottish parliament, justices were particularly critical of section six of the bill, which would have made it unlawful for any public authority to act in a way that is incompatible with the UNCRC. In relation to this, the supreme court ruled the legislation was drafted to “deliberately exceed the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament”, but to rely on the court to impose “corrective limitations in individual cases”.
 
Political reaction to the ruling did not wait. While the Scottish government was accused by Conservative and Labour MSPs of “shamefully using children’s rights to play nationalist games” and “petty constitutional bickering”, the SNP has said the ruling was “deeply disappointing” and showed the limits of devolution, leaving the Scottish parliament “unable to fully protect children’s rights”.
 
However, as Conor Matchett argues in The Scotsman, neither of these positions interrogate whether devolution in its current state is fit for purpose in Scotland, and crucially, whether it is right that MSPs cannot apply conditions to how Westminster legislation is enacted north of the border due to the UK government’s “unqualified” powers.
 
Answering those questions is no child’s play, but some issues should be above the constitutional squabble.
 
For the time being, Scottish ministers have insisted the government remains committed to incorporating the UNCRC “to the maximum extent possible.” That means Scotland’s children, young people, and families will have to wait a bit longer to see their rights protected.

News

A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked a new law that effectively bans women from having an abortion in the state. The order, which follows a request by the Biden administration, prevents any state officer from enforcing the ban while its legality is being challenged. This is the first legal setback for Texas since the law was implemented.
 
The World Health Organisation has endorsed the use of the first vaccine against malaria in Africa. The roll-out of the RTS,S jab across sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high malaria transmission comes after the success of pilot immunisation programmes in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi.
 
The UK foreign office has eased Covid travel advice for 32 destinations, including Bangladesh, Fiji, Gambia, and Malaysia. Although these countries were not on the government’s red list, the department had still warned against non-essential travel to them due to the virus. The change in policy, which follows a simplification of travel rules in the UK earlier this week, should make it easier for people visiting these locations to obtain travel insurance.

Business and economy

Industry bodies have condemned Boris Johnson’s vision for a “high wage economic revival” as “economically illiterate” following his speech at the Conservative party conference on Wednesday, in which the prime minister called on businesses to stop reaching for the “same old lever of uncontrolled immigration”. The reaction of think tanks and trade organisations to the address comes amid major supply chain issues and as farmers begin to cull hundreds of pigs due to a shortage of abattoir workers to process them.
 
The chief executive of chip manufacturer Intel has told the BBC that the company is not considering building a factory in the UK any more as a result of Brexit. Pat Gelsinger admitted that Britain “would have been a site that we would have considered” but “post-Brexit… we’re looking at EU countries and getting support from the EU”. The chipmaker aims to boost production amid a global chip shortage that has affected the supply of cars and other goods.
 
UK wholesale gas prices hit a record high before falling on Wednesday after Russian president Vladimir Putin said it was boosting supplies to Europe. The high cost of wholesale gas brought about by increased global demand and reduced supply has seen several UK energy firms collapse and production halted across industries. The representative body for steel, chemical and fertiliser firms, Energy Intensive Users Group, has called on the government to help keep businesses and industries running.

Columns of note

In light of the damning testimony of former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen, John Thornhill argues in the Financial Times that the social media giant is unlikely to ever fully tackle toxic content given the company’s monetisation model and global scale. The author concludes that despite calls to break up the business, the best hope of constraining it may lie in more imaginative competition and more local networks that prioritise users over advertisers. (£)
 
Writing in City AM, Sascha O’Sullivan analyses the speeches at the Conservative party conference, which were full of snide comments from Tory frontbenchers about cancel culture and statues. While division over tax and spending following the hikes to National Insurance deepened in Manchester, the culture wars were used as a way of restoring unity. However, O’Sullivan argues, the UK government’s “war on woke” method is unlikely to keep dissatisfied backbenchers at bay over taxes and Conservative values for much longer.

Cartoon source: The Telegraph

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London stocks closed lower on Wednesday as inflation concerns grew amid surging oil and gas prices. The FTSE 100 index slipped 1.15%, while sterling was weaker both against the dollar by 0.47% at $1.36 and versus the euro by 0.03% at €1.17.
 
Across the pond, stocks on Wall Street rebounded from an early morning sell-off. The benchmark S&P 500 reversed early losses to close up 0.4%, while the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.5%.
 
In company news:
 
Imperial Brands slid 3.77% despite the tobacco giant saying it was on track to meet full-year expectations as the business continued to perform well.
 
Tesco rallied 5.95% as the supermarket chain lifted full-year earnings guidance after strong first-half sales helped interim profits to more than double against a backdrop of labour shortages and cost pressures.

What’s happening today?

Interims
Morses Club

AGMs
Norish
Tavistock
Thalassa (Di)

UK economic announcements
(07:00) Halifax House Price Index

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Industrial Production (GER)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(20:00) Consumer Credit (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

Mark Twain was born on the day when Halley’s comet flew past the Earth. He once said: “I came in with Halley’s comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it.”
 
Mark Twain died on 21 April 1910 – the day after Halley’s comet returned. (Source: @UberFacts.)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

The House of Commons is in recess. The House will next sit on 18 October 2021.

House of Lords 

The House of Lords is in recess. The House will next sit on 11 October 2021.

Scottish parliament 

General Questions
 
First Minister’s Questions
 
Members’ Business
S6M-01009 Paul McLennan: World Mental Health Day 2021: Mental Health in an Unequal World
 
Portfolio Questions
Education and Skills
 
Ministerial Statement
Heat in Buildings Strategy
 
Stage 3 Proceedings
Carer’s Allowance Supplement (Scotland) Bill
 
Withdrawal of SSIs

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