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Happy New Year to you all.
We hope you have had a restful break and have returned energised. There is much to do.
Big Tech continues to grow in power – and national Governments are increasingly fearful of holding it to account. We believe there is a gap for the Good Law Project to fill. We expect to be able to tell you before the Spring that litigation we started in early 2017 has at last borne fruit and HMRC has assessed Uber to well over £1bn of Value Added Tax. We brought that case – and the work and financial risks have always been ours – but the fruits of that litigation will be enjoyed by the State.
As soon as we have confirmation that we have succeeded against Uber we intend to bring similar proceedings against Amazon; we have a secretly taped recording of a senior HMRC official saying that the Government asked it to go easy on Amazon. We believe HMRC’s job is to apply the law to the weak and the powerful alike, without fear or favour.
2020 should also see the culmination of further proceedings supported by Good Law Project against another hugely wealthy corporate. We have been working for several years to release thousands of graduates from a modern form of bonded labour – and we have hearings coming in the Spring. Before that, we will report to you on the victories we have already won.
Alongside this existing work we plan to bring a number of new legal challenges. About half of all children in single parent families live in poverty. A major contributing factor to this is unpaid child maintenance from absent parents, typically fathers. We plan to force the Government to act to ensure this money is collected.
Increasingly Government uses Black Box technology to make important decisions affecting the social and economic rights of millions of individuals – without monitoring the results of those decisions for hidden biases. There are substantial benefits in principle to automated decision making but it is wrong to ignore the risks. We also plan litigation to highlight state failures to protect women from domestic and sexual violence.
But one issue towers over all else – the climate crisis. Of course, this is not a problem litigation can solve. But we do believe litigation can play a role in driving up costs for the big polluters. We expect, in particular, to begin with litigation seeking to improve the sustainability of food production.
Alongside all of this we want to support – through legal advice and otherwise – initiatives that enable each of us to respond to the world around us. How can we do more as individuals to shape the world we want to see? If capitalism has become a destructive force – and our Government has come to serve it and not us – how should we respond? If there is an initiative you think we can support please do let us know.
There will also be changes in how we work. Thanks to your support, after almost three years of working without any full time employees, we are in a position to recruit several staff members and we hope shortly to move into an office of our own. This will mean we can do more – and do it more effectively. We are also looking for funding to make Good Law Project ‘open source’: we know there are many lawyers who are prepared to give their time for free in service of a better future for all of us; we want to introduce them to the cases that will help them deliver it. I continue to work for Good Law Project unpaid.
If you would like to support our work you can do so here.
Jolyon Maugham QC
The Good Law Project