Legal Changes to Parliamentary Expenses

MP ExpensesIn the wake of the Parliamentary Expenses Scandal that has rocked Great Britain this year, many politicians that we gave our trust (and votes) to have been exposed as cheats. They used the existing parliamentary expenses system to claim for some ludicrous and outrageous items. No matter whether it was a 59p tin of dog food or £22,500 for dry rot repairs in a home that conveniently was changed to a second home days before the claim, the British public have taken a stand and shouted for reform; we will no longer stand for our politicians raiding the public purse for extravagances and items that are not relevant to their job.

From the publicity that the scandal has attracted it seems clear that the system was extremely flawed. Politicians had to submit their claims to the Fees Office, whose officers were responsible for deciding whether the claim was approved or not. The tales of the expense claims has shown that there were queries on many of the claims submitted, but they were eventually paid out. This suggests that there were higher powers at work that controlled the Fees Office rather like a puppet. Since the scandal rocked British taxpayers, the Fees Office has been abolished and reform is underway.

Help Our Senior Executive to Fundraise for Underprivileged Children in India

FiundraisingI would like to share my recent experience of working with children in India with our Members. For many years, it has been one of my goals to dedicate some of my time to underprivileged children in a poor country and at last I have had the opportunity to fulfil it. Fortunately the wonders of the Internet enabled me to continue my work for the Institute at the same time.

I have been helping a very worthwhile charity called El Shaddai, which has homes, shelters, a school and various projects in India that save children from neglect, abuse, homelessness and starvation. The charity provides them with the basic necessities of life, such as education, food, clothing and love, and therefore helps them to have a positive future. I really enjoyed my time with the children and feel very happy to have helped implement some positive changes whilst I was there. The children I met under El Shaddai’s care were a real testament to the wonderful people who founded the charity. The children are open, receptive, loving and keen to learn. They have been given the chance to have fulfilling lives and they are very grateful for it.

Goal-Setting – What are Your Goals for 2010 and Beyond?

Without goals we are not stretched. Being stretched mentally or physically is one of our basic needs, alongside the sense of achievement and satisfaction that comes from achieving not only the goal itself, but also from achieving each step along the way.

So, what are goals and how do we best go about setting them? We can think of goal-setting as creating a positive set of expectations. Those expectations then give our mind something to work towards, mobilising our resources both consciously and sub-consciously.

One really effective method of setting goals is by using what is called the SMART approach. SMART stands for:

Build Your Confidence

ConfidenceSome lucky few seem to be born with loads of confidence. Most of us need to develop it through practice. Confidence is about gaining the inner strength to do something and then feeling comfortable about using that strength, without worrying disproportionately about what others will think of you. So pursuing a job promotion, a personal dream, or even just standing up to speak in a team meeting, all take confidence. It’s not uncommon to think that we don’t need to build up our confidence until we are in a situation where it’s needed. However, this often means we are unprepared. So here are the top ten tips to help you build your confidence so you are more prepared:

1. Stop making excuses. You are not doomed to fail again because you failed before. Instead of creating reasons why you can’t do something, use your time to create reasons why you can!

2. Be honest with yourself about whether you “can’t” do something or simply “won’t” do it. Self-defeating behaviour serves no purpose other than to endorse inaction. Consider what some of the benefits will be when you “do” do this thing. More often than not, the pros outweigh the cons.

Ten Years of Civil Justice

Civil JusticeA review of the success and failings of Lord Woolf’s reforms

This year we mark the tenth anniversary of the Civil Procedural Rules (CPR). Before the new rules were introduced, civil litigation was seen as too slow, expensive, uncertain and adversarial. The implementation of the CPR was the result of Woolf’s famous “Access to Justice” report, commissioned in 1994. The name of the report speaks volumes and supports the view that the old rules of civil litigation were not delivering justice. So ten years on, have things changed for the better?

The rise and rise of litigation?

You will probably be familiar with the accusation that Britain has developed a compensation culture. This is the opposite of what Lord Woolf hoped for. Litigation was supposed to be a last resort. So what has actually happened?

The Distinguished Profession

The word ‘Secretary’ is derived from the Latin word secrenere meaning "to distinguish" or "to set apart" and the passive participle (secretum) meaning "having been set apart," with the eventual connotation of something private or confidential. Therefore, a Secretarius was a person overseeing business confidentially, usually for a powerful individual (a King, Pope, etc).

The secretarial profession is one of the oldest professions that ever existed, though we cannot tell the precise date the profession came into existence. History has it that it predates 1868, being the year Christopher Latham Sholes; a U.S. Mechanical Engineer invented the first practical modern typewriter, and that for centuries the profession was dominated by educated, economically lower-class males until 1873, when young women were employed into the profession to demonstrate the typewriting machines produced by E. Remington and Sons.  This demonstration brought about the eventual takeover of the profession and consequent association with females.

The Homicide Act 2012?

As the law stands at the moment, the act of murder means that a killer can literally get away with murder. With so many statutes, rules and policies in relation to murder, manslaughter and infanticide for example, it is not unusual to find an imbalance in the British justice system. The majority of the public are currently disheartened with the laws that rule our land in terms of criminals who intentionally set out to kill another human being. Many of us lack faith in the system and feel that sentences for murder or manslaughter are too lenient. We have no confidence in the judicial system, and this is partly due to the complicated nature of this beast.

In essence, the British justice system is made up in two ways. There are statutes which have been enforced by the Government and agreed in Parliament. These become the “Acts” that we all know and abide by each day. They affect our daily lives, and as long as you are a law-abiding citizen, it is unlikely that you will find yourself in court because you have disobeyed a statute. These statutes are usually very broad in definition, in order to try and encompass many different eventualities.

The Equality Bill: Not Before Time

The struggle for equality is something that women have faced throughout the centuries. In the early 20th century, for example, the suffragettes undertook the task of protesting in order that the British Government would give women the right to vote. Some feminists even burned their bras in protest during the 1960s in a bid to end repression and to gain the same rights that men have had through the centuries. Equality is a battle that is still ongoing for women, in particular in the case of equal pay and employment opportunities.

It seems to be the common misconception that women should be paid less than men even if they are doing the same job. Of course, this is mainly due to the fact that many women will have children to raise and a home to run; requiring considerable lengths of time off work, often only returning to part-time positions when their children are at school, or full time work once they have flown the nest. For many employers it seems that this is justification enough to pay women less than men. Is this a solid enough reason for women to be paid at a lower rate? For many employers the answer is yes, but in this modern world, where race, age and religion are not accepted as reasons to discriminate, then neither should the sex of a person or their choice to have children.

Managing Stress and Anxiety at Work

We all need stress and anxiety to keep us motivated, energised and alert. Too much, however, can derail us at the times when we most need to have our wits about us and to stay sufficiently calm to deal with the matter at hand.

How is stress caused?

Stress is a natural response to a stimulus either in the environment or in our imagination. In the environment, it signals something which needs addressing, whether it is too much pressure, difficult people, criticism or something else. There may also be things at home or in our social life which are causing stress. We have strong powers of imagination as well. These, when misused to forecast negative outcomes or to produce negative explanations, will cause stress – our minds and bodies respond to stress in the same way whether the stimulus is real or imagined.

How does stress affect us?

Stress affects us emotionally and physically, and it affects the way we think.

Inheritance or No Inheritance?

rule chaneAn update on the long-overdue review of the Intestacy Rules

On 29 October 2009 the Law Commission published a consultancy paper reviewing the law of intestacy. The report is the first step to the proposals being formed into a new Bill and then perhaps an Act of Parliament.

A change to the intestacy law is long overdue, as the rules are substantially the same as they were in 1925. Society, of course, had moved on a great deal over that time, both in terms of our finances (we are much wealthier as individuals) and our social structures (people often co-habit rather than marry). Under the existing rules many people do not really understand what will happen to their estate where there is no will. People believe that everything automatically goes to their spouse or partner, but that is not necessarily the case.

Two of the main problems with the existing rules are:

1) A surviving spouse does not always inherit the whole of his or her partner’s possessions – A surviving spouse is entitled to a “statutory legacy”. Before the limit was increased on 1 February 2009, a surviving spouse would inherit £125,000 if the deceased left children or £250,000 where there were no surviving children. These limits have been increased to £250,000 and £450,000, respectively.