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Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill moves onto the House of Lords

…but not without further scathing criticism

The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill (SARAH) came in for further criticism yesterday as it completed its stages in the House of Commons.

Despite Justice Minister Shailesh Vara’s best efforts to persuade the House otherwise, the overwhelming response was that this is ultimately a pointless Bill which will make no difference to how the law of negligence currently operates.

Mr Vara maintained that “the purpose of the legislation is twofold. First and foremost, it directs the court to take into account certain factors that, at present, it has discretion to take into account under the Compensation Act 2006. Secondly, it sends the powerful message to members of the public who otherwise may not act in certain circumstances that the law is on their side.” He emphasised that the Bill does not confer immunity from civil liability for those whose actions fall within its scope, nor does it remove the court’s ability to do justice in individual cases.

Shadow Justice Minister Andy Slaughter referring to the Bill as “soundbite legislation” attacked it for being a further assault on health and safety in the workplace along with part 2 of LASPO and the changes in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 in relation to strict liability in breach of statutory duty cases.

In a less emotive critique of what he called a “silly Bill”, government minister (and former Solicitor General) Sir Edward Garnier QC, applauded the motive behind the Bill but voiced concern about using legislation to send messages and signals. He is not convinced that “were a court to have regard, as it is required to by the legislation, that it would be in a better position than that of a court dealing with the case now, given the state of the common law and the existing statutory provisions”

Shadow Secretary of State for Justice Sadiq Khan ended the debate by regarding the Bill as “simply a big public relations stunt” and now that the Justice Secretary has “got his favourable media hit…the rest is irrelevant”.

The Bill will now move onto the House of Lords.

Further Reading:

Yesterday’s debate

Keep up to date with the Bill’s progress

Commons Library Standard Note on the progress of the Bill  prepared in advance of the Report stage and to complement the Commons Library Research Paper  prepared for the Commons second reading.

By Alex Fusco

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