'There is never a dull day’: Meet the government legal advisers helping to shape legislation

Government lawyers play a key role in developing legislation – they tell us some of the work they have been doing
Members of the MoJ legal advisers team

By Civil Service World

05 Jan 2024

The King’s Speech to Parliament in November set out the government’s legislative agenda for the next parliamentary session. Behind each of the bills announced are a number of civil servants tasked with bringing ministers’ policies to life.

The Government Legal Department contains the government’s principal legal advisers, providing a legal service to the majority of government departments.

Lawyers at the GLD play an integral role in shaping government bills, including the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, the Media Bill, Victims and Prisoners Bill and the future Football Governance Bill, Sentencing Bill and the Tobacco and Vapes Bill.

CSW spoke to some of them to find out about the key role they play in developing legislation, including advising on a range of legal issues and cross-government work.

Senior GLD lawyer Stuart Caldwell is advising the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology on the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill.

“Over 35 GLD lawyers from six different departments are leading on measures in the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill,” he says.

“The Bill covers a range of different topics, including provisions concerning personal data, digital verification services, information for health and adult social care, ‘smart data’ schemes and the registration of births and deaths.  

“This involves a large coordination exercise across GLD teams to prepare the Bill, working closely with Parliamentary Counsel on the drafting. We are fortunate that the lead drafter previously led on the Data Protection Act 2018 and drafted the data protection EU Exit regulations so has good experience of data protection laws.

“There is a lot of interest in the bill, particularly whether reforms to the UK’s data protection laws will affect the EU Commission’s decision which enables a general free flow of personal data from the EU to the UK. We are working across government and with the Information Commissioner’s Office and the EU Commission as the Bill progresses through Parliament.”

The Criminal Justice Bill, Victims and Prisoners Bill and Sentencing Bill are being supported by Anna Richards and the criminal law, victims and sentencing team.

“The Sentencing Bill will ensure tougher sentences for the most serious offenders,” she said.

“Our team have also been working jointly with Home Office legal advisers and officials to introduce the Criminal Justice Bill, which will empower the criminal justice system to prevent new and complex crimes, including measures on taking intimate images, punishing offenders who fail to attend their sentencing hearing and aggravating factors for grooming behaviour.

“We are also leading on the Victims and Prisoners Bill which is a carry-over bill from the last Parliamentary session which seeks to improve the experience of victims in the criminal justice system.

“How can one team lead on three bills? Hard work, lots of coffee and good humour – there is never a dull day. Even when working under pressure the team pulls together, with more experienced lawyers working hard to develop the skills of those who are coming to bill work for the first time. Working on issues that really matter, and in such a supportive environment, is a real privilege. We all feel lucky to be here.”

Senior GLD lawyer Philip Elvy is leading a team of lawyers supporting the Department of Culture, Media and Sport with the Media Bill.

“The bill covers all types of media, including public service television, radio and streaming services,” he says.

“With so many different areas, we worked collaboratively with policy officials, Parliamentary Counsel, Ofcom and other media stakeholders to ensure that the bill clauses achieve the government’s policy aims and fit properly with existing media legislation.

“The work has been very demanding but also rewarding. We are all looking forward to supporting ministers and the department during bill passage.” 

Plans to introduce a regulator for the football industry are being supported by deputy director Simon Regis and his team.

“We are working on the Football Governance Bill, which will introduce a regulator for the football industry with a focus on sustainability and resilience of clubs who play in the top five men’s leagues,” he says.

“The team are tackling some very interesting and challenging issues around financial regulation, licencing of football clubs, corporate governance, financial distribution of revenue into the football pyramid, owners and director’s tests, fan engagement and heritage, and sanctions and enforcement.

“The regulator will seek to ensure that the beautiful game, the place it holds in the national consciousness and the importance to fans and local communities remains resilient and sustainable.”

GLD lawyer Clare Martin is part of the team advising the Department of Health and Social Care on the Tobacco and Vapes Bill. 

“I am excited to be leading on this bill. It will be a challenging project, working with colleagues across GLD and other government departments to advise the Office of Parliamentary Counsel on drafting the legislation and assisting DHSC officials in preparing all the supporting materials for introduction of a bill to Parliament.

“We will be supporting ministers as the bill goes through Parliament – it’s hard work but I really enjoy being in Parliament, in the main chamber sitting just to the side of the Speaker’s chair for all the debates. You can’t get closer to the action.” 


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