REUTERS | Toby Melville

March 2011 digest: political unrest, a Tsunami and the Budget

Harold Macmillan:

“The wind of change is blowing through the continent. Whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact.”

The political unrest that has been spreading through the middle east dominated the headlines at the start of March but was overtaken by the catastrophic natural disaster in Japan, subsequent concerns over nuclear safety and then, much closer to home, the coalition government’s latest Budget. (For more information on the detail, we published notes on the implications for a number of practice areas, including construction, environment, property and business tax.)

One of the biggest domestic construction stories in March was the CAT’s decisions in the bid-rigging and cover pricing appeals brought by those construction companies that the OFT found guilty. Some decisions related to the penalty the OFT imposed, others to issues of liability as well as the penalty. The story is likely to continue well into the year, as the OFT looks set to appeal the CAT’s decisions.

Change to the UK’s bribery laws is finally underway, as the government published its guidance on the Bribery Act 2010. Another story that will generate more and more column inches as October draws nearer is the one about the changes to the Construction Act 1996. In readiness for those changes, we published a note and some standard clauses to help practitioners to amend some of the industry’s standard form contracts (published by the JCT). We also updated our FAQs, told you about the JCT’s plans and alerted you to the Welsh consultation on the Scheme for Construction Contracts 1998.

The 2011 Budget confirmed, amongst other things, the government’s plans to reform health and safety regulations, as recommended by Lord Young. To this end, the government published two reports, a progress report and also a report on future steps to be taken. Other health and safety issues included the Supreme Court’s judgment on mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure.

Yet again we saw very few adjudication enforcement cases reported in March, with the TCC only looking at “in writing” and the Scottish court looking at natural justice.

The Supreme Court finally handed down its judgment on expert immunity in Jones v Kaney. Other issues before the courts included rectification and mistake, experts and privileged materials (and disclosure of experts’ reports), using Facebook to serve a court order, whether renovation works to a house could be a nuisance and the meaning of an entire agreement clause. An architect’s appointment was also under the spotlight (and we reminded you about our notes on professional appointments, since they have all been reviewed).

Let’s hope the Scorpions were right:

“The wind of change
Blows straight into the face of time
Like a stormwind that will ring the freedom bell
For peace of mind”

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