Debates between Lord Faulks and Lord Pannick during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 11th Jan 2023
National Security Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 1
Wed 9th Feb 2022

Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Pannick
Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for tabling these amendments in response to amendments tabled by me and the noble Lord, Lord Godson, which were supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey. I thank the Minister and his officials very much for the constructive way in which they engaged with us to produce this complex amendment in response to our simpler but plainly inadequate amendment. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Butler, who is not in his place. He supported the amendment on the basis of the well-understood Carltona doctrine.

I have also been asked to mention the noble Lord, Lord Howell, who is in the interesting position of being the only living Minister who was in Northern Ireland at the time and directly involved with this and a number of other ICOs. I thank him and many other noble Lords for their help with these amendments. They will do a great deal to restore the Carltona principle to its proper place and it will put right a decision of the Supreme Court which was no doubt reached in good faith but which was, in retrospect, wrongly decided.

I have a couple of questions for the Minister, of which I have given him notice. The first is in relation to the commencement date for the two new clauses. They are described as coming into force two months after Royal Assent. I understand what he says about those extant criminal appeals. It seems that delaying this for two months risks there being some further appeals which will go forward on the rather unfortunate premise that the relevant ICOs were unlawfully entered into. Can he clarify that?

Secondly, the second proposed new clause contains an order-making power, for regulations under Section 55(2), which is consequential on the section and allows a Minister to amend this Act. They are subject to the affirmative procedure, but I am concerned, as the House always is, by powers of this scale. I seek an assurance from the Minister: although I know that the current Secretary of State will not be amending the Act to, in any way, take away with the left hand what it has given with the right, it would be useful to have on record the assurance that the Bill does not intend to amend its provisions in any substantial way, particularly those that are the subject of these amendments.

I welcome these amendments and thank the Government very much for their co-operation.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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My Lords, I support the amendments, but mention has been made of the Supreme Court judgment in R v Adams [2020] UKSC 19, which caused the difficulties that these amendments are designed to address.

On 26 June, on Report, my noble friend Lord Faulks referred to Policy Exchange as having

“consistently and cogently argued that the decision flew in the face of the well-established Carltona doctrine”.

That has been explained as the doctrine that the powers of the Secretary of State may be exercised on their behalf by junior Ministers or officials. My noble friend Lord Butler of Brockwell expressed concern that the Carltona judgment

“has been thrown into doubt by this judgment”,

which he described as “this very extraordinary ruling”. The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said that he was

“astonished, frankly, that such a legal error could have been made”.—[Official Report, 26/6/23; cols. 502-6.]

The judgment of the five judges of the Supreme Court was given by the late Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore, a distinguished and much-respected jurist. In his judgment, Lord Kerr recognised the role and importance of the Carltona principle. His reasoning was that the principle did not apply in the Gerry Adams case, because of the specific wording of the relevant statutory provision, which expressly distinguished between the making of the detention order and the signing of the order. The statutory provision said that the order could be signed by the Secretary of State, a Minister of State or an Under-Secretary of State. Lord Kerr’s conclusion was that the distinction expressly drawn in the statutory provision between the making and the signing of the order necessarily meant that only the Secretary of State could make the order.

My point is that it is simply wrong to accuse Lord Kerr of ignoring the Carltona principle or throwing it into doubt. The judgment, whether or not you agree with it—different views are, of course, permissible—was based on an analysis of the express terms of the relevant statutory provision. I am concerned that this House should not unfairly impugn the reputation—the well-deserved, high reputation—of the late Lord Kerr.

If I understood the Minister’s opening remarks correctly, he said that the amendment restores the legal position, as it had been widely understood by Ministers, prior to the Supreme Court judgment. With respect, that is not quite right, because Lord Kerr’s judgment refers to the legal advice that was given to the Attorney-General in July 1974 by JBE Hutton QC, later Lord Hutton of Bresagh. Mr Hutton, as he then was, advised Ministers through the Attorney-General. I quote from paragraph 6 of the judgment of Lord Kerr that

“a court would probably hold that it would be a condition precedent to the making of an ICO that the Secretary of State should have considered the matter personally”.

I repeat: I support the amendment, but I hope it is appropriate to put those matters on record.

National Security Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Pannick
Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I will not be disclosing quite as much as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, did, but I will disclose that I am the chairman of the Independent Press Standards Organisation, and it is in that context that I want to add a few remarks. I am also grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for her amendment giving those of us who are concerned—I am sure that I speak for the whole Committee—about the potential effect, no doubt unintended, that the Bill might have on press freedom. I do not want to rehearse all that has been very well set out by the noble Lord, Lord Black, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell. What is vital, of course, is to think what potential chilling effect this might have on journalism, particularly public interest journalism.

One point that is perhaps worth emphasising is how expensive public interest journalism is, how heavy it is on resources and how easy it is for editors to say: “Look, this is far too difficult; you may not get what you want, it is expensive, and what is more it may be unlawful.” If you look at Clause 3(2) of the Bill, and are thinking about running a story to do with armaments, as the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, said—I think that she was probably referring to the Snatch Land Rover issue; she confirms that that was the case—then you might well say to yourself that this is highly risky, because we are going to run a story about something which would be of interest to a foreign power with which we might be in conflict. It is just that sort of thing which this, in the absence of some sort of tailored amendment to the Bill, would have the unintended consequence of not just putting a journalist at risk but of somebody simply saying that they are not going to do the story or spend money on this.

So I hope that the Minister, who is otherwise preoccupied at the moment, may be able to consider these matters carefully, knowing how important public interest journalism is. I should say that I received some briefing from the Guardian. Although IPSO regulates 97% of those publications that we receive, it does not regulate the Guardian, so this does not in any way influence the job that I have.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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My Lords, I share the concerns which have been expressed in this debate about the breadth of Clauses 29 and 30, particularly in relation to public interest journalism, as expressed by the noble Lords, Lord Black and Lord Faulks, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell.

One of the problems is that Clause 29(2)(c) ensures that the foreign power condition applies merely because there is

“other assistance provided by a foreign power”.

That is an incredibly broad definition. The provision of information would potentially fall within the scope of that definition. There is also the concern, which has been explained by the noble Lords, Lord Marks and Lord Wallace, that the foreign power definition in Clause 30(1)(e) extends to a political party—not just to political parties generally but, as Clause 30(2) makes clear, to any party which has any member of the Government in a coalition. So it extends very broadly, particularly in Europe, to any number of political parties.

The noble Lord, Lord Marks, made the point that one of the mischiefs here is that there is no attempt to exclude governing parties in our allies—NATO countries, Australia, New Zealand and Five Eyes countries—which is quite extraordinary. The anomaly is even greater, because if the Committee looks at Clause 30(3)(a) there is a specific exclusion for any political party which is

“a governing political party of the government of the Republic of Ireland”.

I would be very grateful if the Minister could explain why there is that specific exclusion —not that I have anything against the Irish—but not for any political party that operates in our other allies, particularly NATO allies. The anomaly is even greater, because it is not beyond the realms of possibility that, in the next few years, Sinn Féin may be a political party that is part of the Government of the Republic of Ireland, possibly in a coalition.

None of this makes any sense. Could the Minister please clarify, explain and reflect on whether this is really a sensible way to proceed?

Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Pannick
Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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My Lords, I suppose I should declare a professional interest in the possibility of Miller 3.

I support the amendments in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Norton and Lord Butler. I do not suggest that the courts would today never entertain a judicial review in relation to Dissolution. The noble Lord, Lord Norton, mentioned the words of Lord Roskill in the GCHQ case in 1984—the law has moved on a long way in the nearly 40 years since then. Like other noble Lords, I find it very difficult to envisage a case in which the courts would entertain a challenge to the Dissolution of Parliament and the calling of a general election. However, I support the amendments because I think it would be wise, in this context, to proceed on the basis of never say never.

One of the vices of a provision such as Clause 3 is that it seeks to remove the possibility of the court exercising jurisdiction, however exceptional the circumstances may be or however grave the abuse of power by a future Prime Minister. I would much prefer to leave it to the judgment of a future Supreme Court whether the circumstances then existing justify exceptional judicial involvement and whether there is an abuse of power, rather than confirm a blanket immunity from legal challenge whatever the circumstances.

I also agree with the noble Lords, Lord Butler and Lord Norton, that there is a point of principle here: the Prime Minister would be exercising a very important power. It is wrong in principle that there should be an immunity from the rule of law—it is a very basic principle. That principle does not depend on whether the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, is correct in saying that, as a matter of description, this is or is not an ouster clause. What it purports to do is prevent the court saying, “What you have done is unlawful”. We should not be allowing the exercise of public powers to enjoy such immunity as a matter of principle.

We then have the argument the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, deployed, and which was raised in Committee, that the mere existence of this possible jurisdiction to entertain a judicial review may cause delay, expense or inconvenience. That seems to me to be entirely unrealistic. I looked to see whether there have been any cases analogous to the possible cases we are talking about. There is one. The Press Association reported on 8 April 1992, the day before the 1992 general election— won by John Major—that on 7 April, the day before, Mr Justice Macpherson had considered and rejected a judicial review application which was made by a Mr George Barnes, who was seeking to stop the 1992 general election going ahead. Mr Barnes was aggrieved by the manner, as he put it, in which the main political parties had chosen their candidates.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord in the middle of his flow, but I think his point was that the law has moved on greatly since Lord Roskill. So does not citing a decision from 1992 rather defeat his own argument?

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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No, because my point is that hopeless or frivolous applications will be dealt with speedily by the courts. This was plainly an application with no merit whatever, and my noble friend’s point, as I understood him, was that the mere existence of the jurisdiction could cause delay. I am giving an example of how the courts then, and today, would deal with a frivolous application.

The judge decided, unsurprisingly, that this was not a matter for the courts and that there was no basis for the application. The general election went ahead and it was entirely untroubled by the litigation. There was no delay, expense or inconvenience. The court dismissed a hopeless application speedily and effectively, as it usually does. For all these reasons, if my noble friend Lord Butler wishes to test the opinion of the House, he will have my support.