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Yesterday Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his first and only Spring Budget.  Although, as anticipated, the Budget was relatively uneventful, a number of previously announced changes which may affect clients will come into effect from April. This Insight provides a summary of the key measures to look out for. 

Parties to a contract often include provisions setting out what will happen in the event of a breach by one of them. They may for example include a provision stating that the party in breach must pay the 'innocent' party a sum of money by way of 'compensation'.  It is however, a well-established principle of contract law that where the contractual provision provides for a sum which has the intention of penalising the wrongful party rather compensating the loss that could actually be suffered by the innocent party, the clause could be deemed an unenforceable penalty clause.

Accident victims who suffer severe and life changing injuries are often awarded a lump sum in compensation for future losses.  For example, claimants who suffer a serious injury may be able to claim a lump sum to compensate them for future loss of earnings and/or future care costs. In principle that lump sum if invested should be capable of being drawn down over the projected period of loss so that by periodically withdrawing a combination of capital and accrued interest the compensation will only run out at the end of the relevant period.

Instead of being the focus of the usual stories about excess pay for football players, St Mirren Football Club was among a list of employers to be ‘named and shamed’ last week for failing to pay their staff the national minimum wage (NMW). The Paisley side, who currently sit rock bottom of the Scottish Championship, featured in the list published by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The list named 359 UK employers who, between them, underpaid 15,513 workers a massive £994,685. This included a total of 16 employers north of the border, who cumulatively owed 125 workers £29,611, although over half of that total was owed by a charity social care firm ‘Crossroads Caring Scotland’. KFC on Aberdeen’s Union Street was reported to have failed to pay a total of over £1,000 to 23 workers. Other notable high street names to feature on the list included Debenhams and Subway.

The Scotland Act 2016 received Royal Assent on 23 March 2016.  It provides for a range of devolved powers to Scotland. It is important that those working in the UK energy industry are aware of what aspects of energy policy are becoming devolved and the practical impact this may have on Scotland’s oil and gas sector.

‘Drones’ is the word commonly used to refer to UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. They are also known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). It was in the 1930s that remotely controlled aircraft started being used as targets for gunnery practice. After World War Two there was a gradual increase in their use for military reconnaissance purposes, which has increased dramatically in recent years as telecommunication technology has advanced. However, it is only very recently that significant non-military uses of drones have been made, both for leisure and a growing number of commercial applications.

I recently attended an introductory lecture by an economics lecturer from the University of Edinburgh who sagely remarked, ‘I can predict that oil and gas prices will go up and down but I cannot tell you when or by how much’. Very helpful. There are a number of traders and economists who have given predictions on the oil and gas price to the end of 2017. They vary from $35 up to $80 with the median around $60 for Brent crude by the end of 2017 (The Times, 28th December, 2016). Mitsui Bussan Commodities Ltd. gave a Q4 2017 offer price of $58.85 per barrel (on 29th December, 2016). Given the general failure to predict the oil price slump of 2014-2016, I would not place investment decisions for the future in the hands of economists. The fundamentals for investment may be more important at the moment than guessing a forward price.

In my last Insight piece, A Warning About Warnings, I discussed the circumstances in which an employer may take account of expired warnings for the purposes of determining the outcome of a subsequent disciplinary process. But what if a final written warning is clearly live so that, on the face of it,  the employer is entitled to take account of that warning? Surely the employer who treats subsequent misconduct taken together with the final warning as sufficient to dismiss is likely to be on safe ground?

Chambers UK 2018

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