The Human Rights Act has been in the spotlight again this week following a series of comments on the power of Strasbourg made by senior members of the judiciary and the government. Lord Phillips, in an interview with The Guardian, said:

It’s quite plain that, so far as issues of the European convention on human rights are concerned, we are not really supreme…The Strasbourg court has the last word. It gives the definitive decisions on the scope and meaning of the convention … That does not mean that we have slavishly to follow every decision that the Strasbourg court makes. Sometimes we feel it’s desirable that there should be some debate with that court. We feel that if we express our own views on a particular issue, the Strasbourg court may reconsider the position it has taken, and it has done so in the past.”

Meanwhile, the attorney-general Dominic Grieve gave what Adam Wagner referred to as a ‘refreshingly grown-up argument on human rights reform’, outlining why the government felt it necessary to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights. Grieve’s central theme was that of subsidiarity, that is the European Court giving member states more space to set their local social policy. However Joshua Rozenberg suggests that matters might not be quite as simple as Grieve suggests, and that while the principle of subsidiarity is an attractive one, it could lead to the UK effectively acting as judge and jury in its own cause.

While the government is determined to press on with the legal aid bill in its current form, opposition to it continues to mount. The Bar Council has warned the government of the serious consequences of pursuing far reaching cuts to legal aid, and joined forces with organisations engaged in the administration of family justice and/or which represent women, children and victims of domestic abuse to publish a “Manifesto for Family Justice”. In another report the Law Society alleges the government’s plans to reduce the legal aid bill by £350m a year are based on “flawed assumptions” and the savings may never be delivered. The report, ‘Missing Millions’, asserts that the government’s plans “have so little data or evidence underpinning them that there can be no confidence they will be achieved”. In parliament, senior Liberal Democrat MPs have staged a rebellion against the cuts, warning that it will restrict access to justice. A series of amendments to the legal aid bill sentencing have been tabled by Tom Brake and Mike Crockart, the two Lib Dem MPs who sat on the committee stage of the bill, and supported by Simon Hughes.

The royal family has had an interesting week constitutionally. The rules of primogeniture have now been changed, meaning that the first child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will inherit the throne regardless of whether they are a boy or girl. The succession changes will require a raft of historic legislation to be amended, including the 1701 Act of Settlement, the 1689 Bill of Rights and the Royal Marriages Act 1772. Questions have been raised as to the role of the Prince of Wales in vetoing legislation. The Guardian reports that Prince Charles is routinely asked to give his consent to pieces of new legislation in what is effectively a power of veto. Since 2005, ministers from six departments have sought his approval for a dozen bills. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, which oversees the drafting of legislation, has refused to publish internal guidance on how Whitehall determines whether the prince and the Duchy of Cornwall should be granted the right to consent to new legislation. It said the guidance was a matter of “legal professional privilege”.

Employment lawyers have hit back at a leaked government paper that proposes abolishing unfair dismissal claims for ’unproductive workers’, stressing it would rob all employees of basic legal protection. The paper, commissioned by Prime Minister David Cameron and written by Conservative party donor Adrian Beecroft, claims that under current rules workers are allowed to “coast along, secure in the knowledge that employers will be reluctant to dismiss them”.

Finally, a cat stolen by the wife of a Liberal Democrat MP from the home of her husband’s lover last year has been found in Birmingham. John Hemming, MP for Birmingham Yardley, confirmed Beauty, who belongs to the young daughter he had with his mistress, was located in Sparkhill.