THE SECRETARY COMMENTS
More recently the delay has been caused by uncertainty as to the venue and timing of the next Commonwealth Law Conference in the light of the political situation in Zimbabwe who had been chosen to host the next Conference in Harare in 2001. It seemed sensible to delay this issue until we had a final decision in that respect.
We now know that at its meeting in London in June the Council of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association decided to switch the 13th Conference to Australia. Zimbabwe, it is hoped, will be in a position to host the 14th Conference in 2005. The Law Council of Australia has since agreed that the 13th Conference can be held in Melbourne in April 2003. Further details in the next newsletter.
KUALA LUMPUR 1999
The plenary session at the Conference, which the Association co-hosted with the Malaysian Bar Council, was on the theme “Promoting Good Government: Recent Developments in Judicial Review in the Commonwealth”. It was well received by a large and interested audience. The Association was particularly grateful to Marie-Claude Goulet (Canada) and Sir Robert Carnwath (UK) for agreeing to deliver papers to the session on behalf of the Association. They were joined on the panel of speakers by Michael Beloff QC (UK), Prof. Brigid Hadfield (Northern Ireland) and Johannes Chan (Hong Kong).
The Business Meeting attracted some 45 delegates from 15 different Commonwealth jurisdictions. The meeting was chaired by our out-going Chairman, Dato’ Heliliah Yusof, the Solicitor-General of Malaysia who, after a welcome to all those attending, largely left it to the Secretary to get through the business expeditiously.
In the light of the recent decision to switch the next Conference to Australia, Mr. Chikimura has accepted that it would now be sensible for an Australian to serve as Chairman until the next Conference and consultations to that end are now in hand.
SECRETARY AND TREASURER
CONSTITUTION FINALLY APPROVED
Committee of Lawyers in Government and Commerce, New Zealand;
In subsequent discussion, the meeting agreed that priority should continue to be given to developing the Institutional Membership base. The Commonwealth Secretariat undertook to assist in this task by providing a contact list.
However there was a general consensus that the major role of the Association was in the establishment of both formal and informal networks which would flow from the establishment of a database of government legal services throughout the Commonwealth. This should identify for each separate jurisdiction the title and role of the service and an individual willing to act as the contact point and local rapporteur for the Association.
The gradual development of a database of this nature was considered possible with the aid of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s contact list. The ultimate aim should be to make the database generally available to members on an Association web site with appropriate links to other sites with a common or shared interest in all or part of the information it contained. An Association web site with such a database would, it was argued, prove particularly helpful to the smaller jurisdictions. It would facilitate the exchange of information about individual research projects as well as the sharing of common problems and the seeking of local solutions. An active site would also encourage the development of the Institutional membership base.
The Secretary was therefore asked, with the help promised by the Commonwealth Secretariat, to make a direct approach as soon as possible to the government legal service in each Commonwealth jurisdiction bringing to its attention the existence, role and development plans of the Association as a first step towards establishing the database. The Secretary was also asked meanwhile to explore, as a matter of some urgency and in consultation with others with like interests, the options for and financial implications of establishing an Association web site.
The meeting supported the Secretary in his wish to encourage the use whenever possible of email as the primary means of communication between members of the Association with fax as the secondary means.
POST CONFERENCE DEVELOPMENTS
Meanwhile some enquiries have been made about web sites and contacts made with others who are working to a similar end. Most important, however, is the informal offer in principle of funding for our project that I have obtained. A detailed report on the project is required and to this end two proposals for establishing such a site have been obtained and are being evaluated. I am hopeful that ultimately the necessary money will materialise and thus enable us to proceed so that we have at least something positive to show for our efforts by the time we all arrive at the next Conference.
THE NEXT CONFERENCE
It was agreed that the Association should offer to mount, host and chair a single main programme plenary session. It should also organise a separate half day of workshops specifically aimed at public sector lawyers. Whether these workshops and the Association’s Business Meeting should take place within the main conference programme or be arranged on the day preceding or the day following the conference should be decided in the light of the time and cost implications of these two alternative possibilities. However, those present in Kuala Lumpur felt that it had been disappointing to have had to miss important plenary sessions in order to be able to attend the Association’s business meeting there. The views of members on the best solution would be welcome.
LAWYERS IN GOVERNMENT: MANAGING CHANGE
Its aim was to enable public sector lawyers from abroad to learn about the changes relevant to them that have been taking place in the UK in recent years. Devolution in Scotland and Wales, the reform of the House of Lords and the incorporation into domestic law of the European Convention on Human Rights were merely the most obvious. Much work was also being done in less obvious areas like race relations and freedom of information. Indeed the public service itself, including the public prosecuting authorities, had undergone a great deal of reform, both structurally and philosophically, over the last two decades.
Against this background the course was arranged to comprise a large number of visits to government departments, NGOs and academic institutions, both in London and Edinburgh. In each of the outside visits, officials, mainly but not exclusively lawyers, explained how their departments or organisations were coping with the various aspects of change affecting them. Course members were also encouraged to talk about particular aspects of change in their own jurisdictions. Changing trends in legislative drafting techniques and procedures were also examined.
The small group of senior lawyers from Fiji, the Gambia, Singapore and Tonga who attended the course were thus exposed to an enormous range of different subjects and organisations. By their own assessments, as set out below, they gained much of value to them:
"The programme provided very interesting and useful information.
Also, we were able to meet and establish contacts with senior people in
the UK government".
Details of the next course, to be held in London from 12 to 23 March 2001, can be obtained now from Public Administration International at Pai@public-admin.co.uk or from the Secretary.
If your Newsletter has arrived by post and you have an email address, then please acknowledge its receipt by email to the Secretary at the address set out at the end of this Newsletter and your address will then go straight into the address book for future communications which will therefore reach you that much faster. Queries will also get a much quicker response and that is a promise.
In due course copies of the address book will be made available to all members. Meanwhile the Secretary will be happy to supply on request any member with the email address of a specific member if he has it.