Political paralysis at Downing Street is holding up justice secretary Michael Gove’s reform agenda, the Gazette understands.
According to Ministry of Justice insiders, the lord chancellor remains as committed as ever to prison reform and a new British bill of rights – which has been written for more than four months, yet is still to materialise.
But justice officials are growing increasingly frustrated at hold-ups once policies are sent to the prime minister’s office for sign-off, with the department complaining of a ‘limited bandwidth from Number 10’.
‘There is no question Michael wants to make changes, he is a reformer at heart,’ said a source. ‘But it is difficult to get anything done at the moment, especially with the referendum approaching. It is probably true to say changes are not happening as quickly as we’d like.’
Lawyers can expect reforms of probate and immigration law to emerge from government before the autumn, but timescales for legal services regulation and personal injury reform are less certain.
The Gazette understands that a new British bill of rights, some details of which have already been leaked to The Sunday Times, was written and ready for publication in December. Civil servants had intended to publish details in January and then February, but the EU referendum has put paid to any prospect of immediate action.
The Gazette understands that relations between the prime minister and Gove, who stand in opposite corners on the referendum debate, are still very good, with the two agreeing in particular on the need for prison reform. However, there is frustration at Downing Street appearing to hold back reforms.