Debates between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry

There have been 16 exchanges between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry

1 Tue 22nd September 2020 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Justice
5 interactions (837 words)
2 Wed 16th September 2020 Sentencing White Paper
Ministry of Justice
3 interactions (698 words)
3 Tue 9th June 2020 Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
Ministry of Justice
3 interactions (1,086 words)
4 Tue 9th June 2020 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Justice
5 interactions (560 words)
5 Mon 27th April 2020 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
3 interactions (327 words)
6 Tue 25th February 2020 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Justice
5 interactions (446 words)
7 Mon 3rd February 2020 Streatham Incident
Ministry of Justice
3 interactions (770 words)
8 Tue 8th October 2019 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Justice
5 interactions (347 words)
9 Tue 19th February 2019 Northern Ireland Backstop
Attorney General
3 interactions (523 words)
10 Thu 21st June 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
3 interactions (199 words)
11 Tue 15th May 2018 Public Legal Education
Attorney General
3 interactions (830 words)
12 Thu 10th May 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
3 interactions (223 words)
13 Tue 16th January 2018 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Attorney General
7 interactions (952 words)
14 Wed 20th December 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Department for Exiting the European Union
12 interactions (2,343 words)
15 Tue 21st November 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Ministry of Justice
11 interactions (1,120 words)
16 Tue 14th November 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Ministry of Justice
3 interactions (435 words)

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry
Tuesday 22nd September 2020

(5 days, 15 hours ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Justice
Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I really find it extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman brings the code of conduct into these matters. Like him, I am acting as a Member of Parliament. I am acting as a Minister in the Government—[Interruption.] I am not a Law Officer; I am the Lord Chancellor. The Law Officers of this country are the Attorney General, the Solicitor General and the Advocate General for Scotland. I do not give legal advice to the Government. I am not a Law Officer.

However, every member of the Government is obliged to follow the rule of law. It is very clear. I take a particular oath to uphold that and to defend the judiciary. As I have explained, I have absolutely no qualms about what has been happening. I have worked extremely hard to make sure that this House is fully involved. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that the idea that the passage of this Bill is a breach of UK domestic law is just plain wrong, and to misquote me is unhelpful, misleading and damaging, frankly.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP) - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, midnight

The Bill affords the United Kingdom Government the power to breach obligations that they freely entered into less than a year ago, rather than employ the dispute mechanism that they agreed to. When Lord Keen resigned as Advocate General, he wrote to the Prime Minister that he found it increasingly difficult to reconcile what he considered to be his obligations as a Law Officer with the Government’s policy intentions. The highly respected former Attorney General the right hon. Dominic Grieve has said that the Lord Chancellor’s position is even more clear cut than that of the Law Officers, and that the Lord Chancellor has taken

“an oath of office to uphold or protect the rule of law. The rule of law includes international law…his position is untenable.”

Are both these senior distinguished QCs, Lord Keen and Dominic Grieve, wrong? If not, why is the Lord Chancellor still in office?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, midnight

The hon. and learned Lady is right to draw attention to Lord Keen. I pay tribute to his long service in the Government as Advocate General for Scotland, and I was sorry to hear of his resignation. I do not believe that it was necessary, bearing in mind the important changes that have been made to the Bill.

I think that the position is now very clear. The hon. and learned Lady talks of breach, but as I will remind the House again, the eventuality or potential use of these clauses would be only if the EU was in material breach of its obligations, and therefore we would be facing a breakdown. I remind her again that of course we will use the withdrawal agreement mechanism and the arbitral mechanisms within the provisions of the withdrawal agreement, and indeed the Northern Ireland protocol, too. It is not a question of us abandoning our obligations; we will use them, but this is the “break glass in case of emergency” provision that underlies and will protect the United Kingdom’s position if we face such a breakdown.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, midnight

Lord Keen’s resignation was in keeping with the highest traditions of the Scottish Bar. The Lord Chancellor has said that he wants us to consider his own actions as an MP and a Minister rather than as a lawyer, so I put this to him. In 2018, in the Gulf case, England’s Court of Appeal ruled that a Government Minister’s overarching duty to comply with the law includes international law and treaty obligations, even though these are no longer explicitly stated in the ministerial code. This Bill gives the Lord Chancellor and other Ministers the power to run a coach and horses through their obligations under the withdrawal agreement. I know that Conservative Members do not like hearing that, but that is the reality. In the light of what the English Court of Appeal has said, just how is this Bill compatible with his oath as the Lord Chancellor to uphold the rule of law?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, 11:54 a.m.

As I have said to the hon. and learned Lady, the contingency that underlines the coming into force and use of these powers is a very narrowly and clearly delineated one. I do not believe, as I have said in public, that we are at that stage, and I do not believe we will get to that stage, if both parties renew their efforts, act in good faith and double down on making sure that we get a resolution. It would have been far easier for us to avoid the issue, to pretend that there was not going to be a problem, and then to hit the new year with an avalanche of difficulties when it came to Northern Ireland and its relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom. Members of this House would have rightly criticised us, and, frankly, we would have been in an indefensible position. This is a tortuous process. I reject her allegations—her assertions. We will continue to govern responsibly and consistent with our obligations under the rule of law.

Sentencing White Paper

Debate between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry
Wednesday 16th September 2020

(1 week, 4 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Justice
Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am grateful to the Chairman of the Justice Committee. We all know his long and deep knowledge of the system as a practitioner. He is right to remind us of the purposes of sentencing. He will see in the White Paper a lot of reference to public protection issues—protecting the public from harm, but also protecting the public from crime. The two go together, and one is served, I would submit, by effective prison sentences, while the second is served by rehabilitation through the community options that can make such a difference with the right support.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard

I thank the Lord Chancellor for his customary courtesy in affording me advance sight of his statement. However, it is a little difficult to stomach rhetoric about how tough this Government are on law breakers when only a week ago a Minister stood at the Dispatch Box and told us that they intended to break international law, albeit in a limited and specific way. Even the Lord Chancellor seems to think that, when it comes to his Government colleagues, the rule of law can be watered down to allow law breaking that he finds acceptable.

I want to make it clear that in Scotland the law applies equally to everyone, whether they are a Government Minister or an ordinary member of the public. I wonder whether the Lord Chancellor agrees that it should be the same in England and Wales. That is where this sentencing White Paper applies; sentencing is devolved to Scotland. However, the position of the SNP is clear. We want to work hard with the UK Government and European friends to make sure that all communities in these islands are protected from terrorism and serious crime.

There are elements of the White Paper to be welcomed, including the offer of treatment for vulnerable prisoners with mental health and addiction problems, and the proposals to encourage courts to pass community sentences for less serious offences, following the Scottish model. However, I would express caution about giving whole-of-life sentences to teenagers. Expert evidence shows that young people are more likely to be open to rehabilitation. That is important for the public, because every time we manage to rehabilitate or deradicalise someone, it makes the public a little bit safer. Prisoners who know they will never be released have little incentive not to kill or maim not only other prisoners, but prison officers. I would like to know that the Lord Chancellor has taken cognisance of those factors. The Scottish Sentencing Council is consulting on its third draft guideline on sentencing young people. Are there any proposals to consult on this issue in England and Wales as well?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard
1 Jan 2000, midnight

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Lady. With regard to the latter matters, the Sentencing Council here in England and Wales has done a lot of work on sentencing of young offenders. Any further guidelines are matters for that council, but perhaps she and I together can explore that with its chair.

I note the hon. and learned Lady’s point about young offenders, which echoes what the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), the shadow Justice Secretary, said. We absolutely will preserve the principle that the sentencing of young offenders is a separate legal regime from the sentencing of adults. Quite clearly there are differences, and the welfare issue must be paramount. Having said that, there will be, sadly, some egregious and particularly extreme examples of serious criminality that may merit the imposition of the most serious sentence available to the court. What I am proposing is that the courts would have a discretion in relation to those under 21, as opposed to their being mandated to impose such a severe sentence. That element of discretion is at the heart of what I am trying to achieve here: a flexible, balanced system.

In terms of balance, I assure the hon. and learned Lady that when it comes to the rule of law, both within Her Majesty’s Government and our country as a whole, I, like her, yield to no one in my belief in equality before the law. I also believe in maintaining a balance and that is what I am doing every day.

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
Debate between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry
Tuesday 9th June 2020

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Justice
Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I absolutely accept and understand the motivation behind my hon. Friend’s intervention, and he makes such a recommendation not just as Chair of the Select Committee, but as a guardian of the principles of the rule of law, which, after all, is what we, as a nation, are trying to defend against those who would kill, shoot and bomb their way into power and influence. He can be reassured that this—if you like—reversion to the previous standard of proof is all about making sure that we have as agile a tool as possible, bearing in mind the rapidly changing nature of the terrorist threat that we face. It is vital that we make sure that, when applications for TPIMs are made, they can be done not only in such a way that there is clearly an evidential basis and those grounds exist, but in a way that means they can be effective and as rapidly implemented as possible. The focus of the TPIM and the number of people on it will change, adapt and evolve according to the constant and the changing nature of the threats.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP) - Hansard

I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. The point made by the Chair of the Justice Committee is very well made. Not only has the current independent reviewer of terrorism, Jonathan Hall QC, not recommended the change, but he has specifically questioned the basis for the change. So again, is the Lord Chancellor able to clearly articulate for us why this change in the burden of proof is necessary?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 12:07 a.m.

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Lady for her question. Indeed, in the lengthy answers that I am giving, I am trying to do just that. What I am trying to explain is—I know that she knows this—that the TPIM mechanism is not something that is entered upon lightly. It involves a high degree of resource and a high intensity of resource management. It is a self-evident truth that the resources of the state, however large they may be, are not infinite and therefore choices and priorities have to be allocated. What I can assure the House of is that of course every time we assess that the grounds are met and that there is a risk, we will act. That is what our security services do, day in, day out, for us. What I am saying is that the change in the threshold creates that greater agility. I accept that it will be a lower standard, yes, but the reason for that is to allow for greater flexibility when our operational partners come to apply them.    

I was talking about the importance of TPIMs’ use being proportionate. I believe that the annual review of TPIMs, which is going to be part of this process to qualify the question about their indefinite duration, strikes the right balance between the need for vigilance and control against the need for those basic civil liberties that we all guard jealously to be maintained. Let us not forget that where it is no longer necessary or proportionate to extend a particular TPIM for the purposes of public protection, that TPIM will be revoked. That check and balance is very much at the heart of the regimen that we are proposing in the Bill.

The Bill also amends legislation governing serious crime prevention orders. Those are civil orders imposed by the courts that protect the public by preventing, restricting or disrupting an individual’s involvement in serious crime, which of course includes terrorism. The Bill supports the use of these orders in terrorist-related cases by allowing counter-terrorism policing to make a direct application to the High Court for a serious crime prevention order. We are therefore streamlining that process. The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation has noted that these mechanisms are at the moment an under-utilised tool in terrorism cases, and I believe that by streamlining the process we will see a greater reliance upon them.

We are also adding the offences of breaching a TPIM notice and breaching a temporary exclusion order to the list of relevant terrorism offences that can trigger the registered terrorist offender notification requirements. Again, the independent reviewer has publicly confirmed his support for that change. The regime requires individuals aged 16 or over who have been sentenced to 12 months or more in custody for a relevant terrorism offence to provide certain information about changes in their circumstances, such as their address, to the police and to notify them of any foreign travel plans. Together, these changes strengthen our ability to manage the risk posed by those of terrorism concern in our community, including those who have been released from prison without a period on licence.

The Bill also reforms how we deal with terrorist offenders under the age of 18. We recognise, of course, that there is a separate sentencing framework for that category of offenders, and that it has distinct purposes and aims that differ from those relating to adult offenders. We have carefully considered which measures it would be appropriate to apply to under 18-year-olds in developing this proposed legislation. Although we remain firm in our aim to ensure that custody should be used only where absolutely necessary, it is a sad and inescapable fact that some young people are susceptible to radicalisation or to the adoption of extremist views, and that among those, there are a few who pose a very serious threat to the public.

The Bill will therefore ensure that the courts have the right range of tools at their disposal to deal with those under the age of 18 who commit serious terrorist or terrorist-related offences. We will do that by introducing a youth equivalent to the special sentence for offenders of particular concern. This will mean that, if convicted of terrorist offences serious enough to warrant custody, these offenders will serve a fixed period on licence once they have been released into the community. This will ensure that they receive an appropriate level of supervision. We are also replicating the changes to the extended determinate sentence to ensure better public protection from young terrorist offenders who have been assessed as dangerous. This removes Parole Board consideration of the two-thirds point for the most serious terrorism offences, and in the interests of public protection, it gives the courts the option to apply an extension period of up to 10 years on licence. I accept that this is an exceptional series of measures, but we are dealing with an exceptional type of offending.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry
Tuesday 9th June 2020

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Justice
Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 11:55 a.m.

The right hon. Gentleman will be glad to know that I continue to look at that on a daily basis. The overall case load in the Crown Court is approaching just over 41,000. Before the crisis it was 39,000, so there has been a slight increase. Within that case load, the courts have managed a lot of cases that can be dealt with administratively and by way of plea, but that does leave a cohort of trials to be dealt with. Normally, 200 jury trials a week will be heard in England and Wales, and we are still dealing with a very small number. That will clearly tell him the scale of the challenge, but I can say to him that both the Lord Chief Justice and I are working together closely in order to scale up capacity, to look at court hours and the way the courts sit so that we can accommodate jurors and staff, and to do whatever it takes not just to manage that case load number but to bring it down as we go through the year.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP) - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 11:56 a.m.

The Lord Chancellor has a strong record of defending judicial independence, and I congratulate him on that. Does he agree that it is equally important that those in Government do not seek to influence the police or the Crown Prosecution Service in the exercise of their duties? Can he confirm that that is why he, unlike other members of the Government, refrained from tweeting in support of Dominic Cummings when there was a live issue as to whether Mr Cummings had breached the lockdown regulations and guidance?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

The hon. and learned Lady will know that I refrain, in correspondence and, indeed, in statements or questions in the House, from talking about individual cases. I remind her and the House that, as Lord Chancellor, I will always act in a way that is consistent with the rule of law. The independence of the police and prosecutorial authorities has to be paramount, and that is something that I will absolutely uphold. My constitutional duties come first, and everybody within Government knows that full well.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 11:58 a.m.

Perhaps the Lord Chancellor could share those thoughts with the Attorney General.

Upholding human rights is also an important part of the Lord Chancellor’s Department’s priorities. When the Minister for the Cabinet Office gave evidence to the Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union recently, he made it clear that the Government still intended to amend the Human Rights Act 1998. Can the Lord Chancellor reassure us that any such amendments will not seek to abrogate domestic law giving effect to the European convention on human rights?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 11:58 a.m.

I can tell the hon. and learned Lady that, as part of our manifesto commitment, we have pledged to update the Human Rights Act, which is now 20 years old in terms of its operation. That is only the right and proper thing to do. I can absolutely assure her that our membership of the convention is beyond any doubt or peradventure. That will very much remain the case as we go through the negotiations with our friends in the European Union on the future relationship and, indeed, domestically as well. We are working on an important independent review into the operation of the Human Rights Act, and I will update the House when further details are available.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry
Monday 27th April 2020

(5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
27 Apr 2020, 2:47 p.m.

My hon. Friend knows that prison staff were made a priority by my colleague the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and I am grateful to him for that. That of course includes probation staff. In addition, HMPPS was invited to use some of the available NHS testing capacity for our prison and approved premises staff, and that is prior to the full roll-out plan. Over the past two weeks, we have referred more than 2,000 staff for testing, to which hundreds have already had direct access. We will continue to work with DHSC to ensure that all our key workers have access to testing of all appropriate types as the weeks go ahead. Recalling the question by the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), that will, I hope, extend to prisoners, too, when we have that capacity.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP) [V] - Hansard
27 Apr 2020, 2:48 p.m.

May I join others in welcoming the shadow Justice Secretary to his place?

The suspension of prison visits during the current crisis affects not just the welfare of prisoners but also their families and loved ones, who have of course been guilty of no criminality. The Scottish Government have committed to providing every prisoner in Scotland with a mobile phone that will be locked so as to enable outgoing calls to approved numbers only. Will the Ministry of Justice be able to match that commitment for every prisoner in England and Wales?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
27 Apr 2020, 2:48 p.m.

The hon. and learned Lady is absolutely correct to talk about the need for contact with families. I am pleased to say that as a result of investment that we have made, we have rolled out even more direct access to telephones across the prison estate in England and Wales. Wherever possible, we have—with controls, of course—issued telephones in-cell or very close to the cell that can be used safely by the prisoner. We have also provided £5 free PIN credit per week for every prisoner that allows for approximately 60 minutes of free calls.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry
Tuesday 25th February 2020

(7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Justice
Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
25 Feb 2020, 11:36 a.m.

As well as introducing our important domestic abuse Bill, we are already committing more resources to rape crisis centres. For example, rape and sexual abuse support services have had their funding increased to £32 million over the next three years—an increase of over 50%—which will provide free advice, support and counselling at 94 rape support centres, which is more than ever before. That is encouraging progress.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP) - Hansard
25 Feb 2020, 11:37 a.m.

On International Women’s Day last year, Ireland became the 34th country to ratify the Istanbul convention, but unfortunately the United Kingdom is one of only six countries yet to do so. Can we take this as an indication of where the UK intends to position itself on the world stage in terms of rights and protections of citizens post-Brexit?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
25 Feb 2020, 11:37 a.m.

I can reassure the hon. and learned Lady that not only is the United Kingdom committed both internationally and domestically through legislation—I know that she actively supported that back in 2017—to implement the convention, but in many respects we are ahead of the obligations that the convention places upon us, and we are among the leaders of the world in our support and in our approach to violence against women and girls and the victims of sexual abuse. We should not be complacent about that, but it is worth reminding ourselves of how far we have come.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
25 Feb 2020, 11:38 a.m.

That is all very well, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s own Government’s report identified two major respects in which UK law has yet to comply sufficiently to make us able to ratify the convention. The legislation to which he refers, introduced by my former colleague Dr Eilidh Whiteford, was introduced three years ago, so what we need to know today is what is stopping the UK Government following the lead of the Scots and the Irish. Is it by any chance the requirement to support migrant women experiencing domestic abuse, who often find it impossible to access emergency protection because of the no recourse to public funds condition? His own Government identified that as one of the two major problems. What will be done about that, and when?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

The hon. and learned Lady knows that in response to the Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill the Government are taking careful account of the evidence that has been provided on that specific issue. In previous annual reports we have indicated compliance with the articles, but we have to make sure that the concerns raised in the Joint Committee are properly addressed. We will no doubt have an opportunity with the forthcoming Bill to debate these issues, and I look forward to engaging with the hon. and learned Lady on the subject.

Streatham Incident

Debate between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry
Monday 3rd February 2020

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Justice
Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
3 Feb 2020, 5:28 p.m.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, the Chair of the Select Committee on Justice. It would perhaps be wrong of me to go into specific detail as to the regimen that applied in prison to this offender. I would make the general observation that the terrorist cohort is complex and difficult to assess, and if there is not engagement by individuals with the programmes on offer, the assessment of risk becomes a much more complicated exercise. I simply say that bearing in mind the exceptional nature of the terrorist cohort, exceptional approaches are needed.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP) - Hansard
3 Feb 2020, 5:29 p.m.

May I start by extending my sympathies and those of the Scottish National party to those injured and terrorised by yesterday’s events, and by praising the security and emergency services? I am pleased that the UK Government are following the Scottish Government’s lead in ending automatic early release for the most serious offenders. The Lord Chancellor has said that he intends to introduce emergency legislation, making retrospective provision in relation to those sentenced before the law was changed. Will he assure me that the usual legal difficulties with retrospective legislation have been addressed to his satisfaction?

Sentencing is only a small part of the answer to terrorism, and what happens during the sentence is what matters. To date, deradicalisation and disengagement programmes have been largely “unfunded and poorly executed”. Those are not my views, but the views of Nazir Afzal, the former chief Crown prosecutor for the north-west of England, an experienced lawyer and a prosecutor worth listening to. He says that that has happened as a direct consequence of the decision by successive Tory Governments to cut funding to probation and other rehabilitation programmes. Of course, the costs of the sort of post-release police surveillance that we saw yesterday far outweigh the costs of adequate funding for preventive measures and deradicalisation. Does the Lord Chancellor agree with me and Nazir Afzal on that? Will he assure the House that in future sufficient funds and resources will be made available to deal with preventive and deradicalisation programmes in prison?

Finally, it was reported earlier today that an anonymous No. 10 source told Sky News that the system for dealing with terrorism has significant problems because of

“the shocking influence of lawyers on policy”.

I imagine that the Lord Chancellor does not share that view—[Laughter.] This is important. Will he join me in condemning those sorts of anonymous briefings? Does he agree that there is plenty of room to introduce robust anti-terrorism policies that are rule-of-law compliant?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
3 Feb 2020, 5:31 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Lady for her remarks about the solidarity that we have across these islands with regard to terrorism.

Let me deal with her last point first. It is important to remember that we in this country stand for the rule of law and due process. That is what marks us out as different from those who rely on the bullet and the bomb—those who use indiscriminate and arbitrary means and methods to impose their will on us. If we stand for nothing else, we have to stand for the rule of law. That makes us better than them, it makes us different and it means that we have something worth defending. I hope that answers the hon. and learned Lady’s latter question.

On the first issue that the hon. and learned Lady raised, as I said, this is an exceptional situation. The issue of retrospective effect is of course a key factor. The important point is that we are talking about the administration of a sentence—the way it is dealt with, as opposed to its length or type. For that reason, it is entirely appropriate to look at the administration of a sentence and I would regard that as a reasonable approach.

The hon. and learned Lady asked about resources. I am happy to tell her that in the past several years, counter-terrorism funding has increased year on year. I repeat the point that I made to the hon. Member for Leeds East (Richard Burgon): resources will never get in the way of our dealing properly and robustly with those who pose a threat to us. The way in which we deal with terrorism continues to evolve, and programmes change and adapt according to the knowledge that we accrue. I will not pretend that we are in a state of grace when it comes to these things, because we are still learning, but make no mistake about it: this country is a world leader and many other states look to us as a beacon because of the way we deal with counter-terrorism and the particular threat that it poses.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry
Tuesday 8th October 2019

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Justice
Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

My right hon. Friend tempts me along the path of debate about the constitution, and in particular the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. While I am always keen to engage in academic constitutional debate, we have many other fish to fry at the moment.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP) - Hansard
8 Oct 2019, 11:55 a.m.

I thank the Lord Chancellor for speaking out in favour of the independence of the judiciary.

Lord Hope of Craighead, a former Deputy President of the Supreme Court and Lord President of the Court of Session, has pointed out that

“The Supreme Court justices were careful to explain in their judgment”

on the Prorogation case

“that they were not pronouncing on political questions. The issues with which they were dealing…were issues of law.”

Will the Lord Chancellor explain that to those in his party demanding a politicised appointment process for the judiciary?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Lady. I treat the remarks of the noble Lord Hope with extreme gravity, bearing in mind his experience and knowledge. It always bears repeating that the judiciary do not have political motivations, and that case was no exception. Frankly, I think the matter needs no further debate. If we ended up with an American-style approval system, we would all be the poorer for it.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard

Yesterday a Scottish court recorded the Prime Minister’s unequivocal promise to comply with his statutory duties under the Benn Act. The judge, Lord Pentland, said:

“it would be destructive of one of the core principles of constitutional propriety and of the mutual trust that is the bedrock of the relationship between the court and the crown for the prime minister or the government to renege on what they have assured the court that the prime minister intends to do”.

Can the Lord Chancellor assure us that he will be impressing on the Prime Minister the grave consequences of ignoring that warning from a senior member of the Scottish judiciary?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I read the transcript of what Lord Pentland said with great interest. Of course, that matter is subject to appeal, and it would be wrong of me to speak about it in detail, but those comments are noted.

Northern Ireland Backstop

Debate between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry
Tuesday 19th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Feb 2019, 12:46 p.m.

As usual, my right hon. and learned Friend tempts me down many paths that I dare not take, simply because this is a negotiation between the United Kingdom and the EU. We heard yesterday from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, who has been to Brussels and held a productive meeting with Michel Barnier, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General has been playing an important part in these negotiations. May I reassure my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) that the Government remain determined to get on with the job at pace?

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Feb 2019, 12:47 p.m.

This morning, France’s Europe Minister, Nathalie Loiseau, said that there will be no renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement. In saying that, she was simply echoing what has been said repeatedly by Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Leo Varadkar. That was the position made crystal clear to the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union when we met Martin Selmayr on 4 February. He said that the most the EU would be prepared to contemplate was an additional legal instrument or a codicil to the agreement, which would incorporate the sort of assurances set out in the letter from Tusk and Juncker dated 14 January but which would not contradict or change the existing text of the agreement. Can the Solicitor General confirm that that is still the position of the EU and that there is no question of the withdrawal agreement being opened up and renegotiated in relation to anything, let alone the backstop? Will he confirm that it is clear that there will be no time limit or unilateral exit clause to the backstop? If his position is that he does not want to give this House a running commentary, why is the Attorney General supposed to be elsewhere today, giving a speech about what is proposed, not to this House, but to I know not who? Is it true that that speech has been cancelled? If so, why has it been cancelled?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Feb 2019, 12:48 p.m.

May I assure the hon. and learned Lady, who expresses a deep interest in the Attorney General’s diary, that his plan is to make a speech about the issues, but it is not going to be some detailed exposition of a legal position, which he will bring to this House if appropriate? He has already shown an admirable willingness not only to address this House, but to comply with its orders, and I am sure he will continue to work in that spirit.

I am glad the hon. and learned Lady referred to the letter of 14 January, because it is important to remind ourselves that the Commission made it clear in that letter that it was determined to give priority to the discussion of alternative arrangements. That is very much part of the ongoing discussion. It would be somewhat difficult for me to commit the other party to the negotiation to a particular position. I have heard her comments with interest. I am here to speak on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government and our position is clear.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry
Thursday 21st June 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 Jun 2018, 10:22 a.m.

The hon. Lady makes a pertinent point. She will know that the Attorney General and I launched a review late last year ahead of some of the latest stories that have hit the headlines about the importance of disclosure. It has been a long-term issue, involving both the CPS and, notably, the police, but we are working closely to update and revise the guidelines to tackle the issues with which she and I are very familiar.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 Jun 2018, 10:22 a.m.

In Scotland, public legal education begins at school, because human rights are part of the curriculum for excellence, and the Joint Committee on Human Rights recently heard evidence that that is part of the reason for Scotland’s more positive public discourse about human rights. Has the Solicitor General had any discussions with his counterparts in the Department for Education about emulating Scotland’s education example south of the border?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 Jun 2018, 10:23 a.m.

Once again, I am grateful to the hon. and learned Lady for raising an interesting dimension. I have not had those conversations, but I certainly want to. The curriculum in England and Wales—England in particular—already includes citizenship, of which PLE can be a part, but I will take on board her observations. I am grateful.

Public Legal Education

Debate between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry
Tuesday 15th May 2018

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Attorney General
Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Hansard
15 May 2018, 4:03 p.m.

I will do that, Mr Streeter. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, as it was under Mr Pritchard’s. It is almost a challenge for me to fit into the few minutes I have, everything I want to say on a subject I have a long interest in and passion for.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena) for reminding us clearly and comprehensively about the unwritten contract, the Burkean principle that is so important to many of us, and for reaching into the present day by illustrating some of the excellent initiatives going on around the country. I will come back, if I may, to some of the observations made by the shadow Solicitor General and the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry), but I will begin by reminding everyone what public legal education, or PLE, is.

PLE provides people with vital awareness, knowledge and understanding of their rights and those of their fellow citizens. It builds their confidence and the skills that are needed to deal with the disputes that no doubt encroach on the lives of many of us, and it ensures effective access to justice. I was at the independent Bar for many years before I was elected to this place, and I played my part in the delivery of public legal education in schools and colleges in south Wales. I wanted to bring that experience with me into my role as Solicitor General. It is ever more important to ensure that the people of our country understand the law and their rights and responsibilities within it. Public legal education breaks down barriers of knowledge, circumstance and access. As we have heard, PLE is provided by myriad community-based organisations—youth workers and health workers, for example, and legal professionals themselves—all doing their part to ensure that particularly those people with social and economic disadvantages can still get the support they need.

The shadow Solicitor General made the observation that legal aid is a pillar of the welfare state. It is more than that; it is about access to justice. Both he and I, as practitioners, have seen Governments of various colours take legal aid measures that have resulted in reductions in overall eligibility, and the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West were particularly interesting in that regard. Frankly, I do not think that any Government have got it absolutely right. I could go into a long history lesson about how in 1949 only High Court family cases were eligible for legal assistance and that under successive Governments that assistance was enlarged to a point at which under the Thatcher Government—some would think this almost ironic—84% of the population of England and Wales had some form of eligibility for legal aid.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
15 May 2018, 2 p.m.

An independent report published just a couple of months ago shows that 70% of the population of Scotland is eligible for legal aid, yet less is spent per capita on that aid than in England. With a bit of imagination, there could be wider availability of legal aid in England. Scotland shows that it can be done.

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
15 May 2018, 2 p.m.

I am always interested in the hon. and learned Lady’s observations, but I am not sure whether 70% coverage is the right balance. I will consider with interest what she has said and study the issue more carefully, rather than making remarks that are not based on a full study of the evidence. I will, however, concede the point that public legal education is not some substitute or easy fix for eligibility for legal aid. It is a much more long-term approach, which focuses naturally on children and young people and is designed, above all, to give people the knowledge and the wherewithal to avoid the pitfalls of litigation and court proceedings in the first place. We have a very different aim in mind when it comes to spreading the provision of PLE. I pay tribute to all the organisations in Scotland that do so much work, the law clinics in particular, which the hon. and learned Lady mentioned—we have those in great measure too south of the border.

It is not just motherhood and apple pie; there is a statutory underpinning to public legal education in the Legal Services Act 2007 which, among its regulatory objectives refers to

“increasing public understanding of the citizen’s legal rights and duties”

and

“improving access to justice”.

It is not an option for the Government, or indeed any of the regulatory bodies, to neglect those objectives. I am glad that the Law Society, the General Council of the Bar and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives here in England and Wales play their part in ensuring that PLE is spread as far and wide as possible within the professions. Both the Attorney General and I, as the pro bono champions of the Government, work closely with those involved in PLE and support initiatives to increase its profile and reach more members of the public.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry
Thursday 10th May 2018

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
10 May 2018, 10:21 a.m.

I am interested in the work being done not only in Northern Ireland, but in Scotland, and I am a member of the inter-ministerial group that deals with these issues. We are working with, and obtaining as much information and learning as possible from, the devolved parts of the United Kingdom so that we can improve our approach. This is not just a question of crime; it is a question of health education, and if we deal with it in that way, we might start to crack the problem.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard

In Scotland, crimes involving a weapon are down by two thirds since 2007, and the Scottish Government’s whole-system approach to youth crime incorporates innovative approaches from the prosecution service in Scotland, including diversion from prosecution where appropriate. Will the Solicitor General follow Met Commissioner Cressida Dick in coming to Scotland to view the excellent work being done on knife crime there?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
10 May 2018, 10:22 a.m.

The hon. and learned Lady develops the point made by the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), and I would be keen to learn more. I have already started that process by delving into the Scottish experience, and I am glad that the learning and experience in Scotland is being absorbed into thinking and policy development south of the border. I would be happy to take up the hon. and learned Lady’s invitation.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Report stage: First Day: House of Commons)
Debate between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry
Tuesday 16th January 2018

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:45 p.m.

I certainly can. First, we are not repealing anything. Secondly, the dog that has not barked in this debate is the European convention on human rights, which is much supported by both sides of the House, very much part of our law and a fundamental part of the underpinning of many of the human rights—

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:45 p.m.

rose—

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:45 p.m.

I know that the hon. and learned Lady treasures and rightly places great value on those human rights. I give way to her.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:45 p.m.

Can the Solicitor General confirm once and for all that reports that the Prime Minister wants to run the next Tory party general election campaign on a pledge to repeal the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the convention are incorrect? [Interruption.] Conservative Members roll their eyes and make a noise. I am giving him the opportunity to confirm that that is incorrect.

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:46 p.m.

May I just calm the hon. and learned Lady? [Interruption.] Well, she is making a point that is frankly not the case. We have committed to supporting our membership of the European convention throughout this Parliament, and that is a position I entirely support.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:46 p.m.

What about the next Parliament?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:47 p.m.

The hon. and learned Lady seems to be very focused on future referendums and the desire to rerun arguments that were held some time ago. I want to do justice to her amendments as much as to anybody else’s, and I will say this about the amendments posited by her and the Labour party: they offer different visions of how challenge might be mounted by using the charter. Amendment 4, which stands in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, deals with a situation akin to that under the Human Rights Act, whereby a declaration of incompatibility can be given, but that does not guarantee full redress for individuals seeking it under the charter. I accept that the amendment in the name of the hon. and learned Lady goes further and would retain a power in effect to strike down legislation if it is incompatible with the charter. I simply say to both of them, with the greatest of respect, that their approaches work against the core aims of the Bill. We are leaving the EU, and there has to be certainty about the process; and certainty in the law lies at the heart of everything else we have to do. That is the simple reason why we cannot accept those amendments.

I was interested in the arguments of the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) about clause 4, when she moved her amendment 57 and spoke to her new clause 19. My argument about clause 4 is simply this: indeed, as the sweeper clause—the description she adopted—it has the important function of curing any loopholes that might exist in European law when we leave the EU and deals with the question of uncertainty that I know she is extremely concerned with. I will try to reassure her. She will remember that the explanatory notes contain a helpful and non-exhaustive list of the type of directly effective rights, such as equal pay—a very important right—that are designed to be covered by this important provision in clause 4. As I have said in evidence in another place, we are simply seeking to ensure the important principle of reciprocity in the enforcement of fundamental rights such as those of equality, which she referred to, and those pertaining to the environment, for which I know she also has a great passion.

In conjunction, I can deal with the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous), who succinctly and clearly made his argument on new clause 16, which deals fairly and squarely with equalities. We have already made our commitment clear that all the protections in and under the Equality Acts of 2006 and 2010 and the equivalent Northern Ireland legislation will continue to apply once we have left the EU. In Committee, we tabled an amendment which would secure transparency in that regard by requiring ministerial statements to be made about any amendments made to the Equality Act through secondary legislative powers under the Bill.

What concerns me about new clause 16 is that it would go further by creating new free-standing rights, perhaps even more than have been proposed in amendments relating to the charter. That is not the purpose of the Bill. The Bill is about maintaining the same levels of protection on the day after exit as on the day before. It is not a vehicle for substantive legislative changes such as those that have been proposed, and for that reason we cannot accept the new clause.

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) for his qualified welcome for the Government amendments. The reason for a three-month time limit analogous to that which exists in domestic judicial review is the important policy consideration that there must be a degree of certainty when it comes to ongoing litigation and dispute about EU law as we enter the post-exit era. I think there must be some resolution of that by way of a limitation period. Retaining an open-ended right of action would create more uncertainty for businesses and individuals about rights and obligations.

After we cease to be a member of the European Union, it would not be right to allow “general principles” challenges to Acts of Parliament to continue, because that is not in line with the purposes of Brexit. To put it simply, outside the context of EU law, the ability of courts to disapply Acts of Parliament on “general principles” grounds is not consistent with the way in which our domestic legal system functions. That must be at the heart of our policy considerations.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 8th sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry
Wednesday 20th December 2017

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Exiting the European Union
Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 2:51 p.m.

The point I am seeking to make is that having vigorously resisted my amendment, which I tabled for the benefit of everybody living in the UK in relation to issues of certainty about the interpretation of retained EU law after exit day, the Government have now conceded some ground—they are going to provide that certainty for EU citizens living in the UK—so why, if it is good enough for EU citizens living in the UK, is it not good enough for UK citizens living in the UK? Perhaps even more importantly—this adds force to my argument—senior members of the judiciary, both current and retired, have very serious concerns that the wording in the Bill as it stands will involve them in having to make political decisions.

In the past few days, we have seen the kind of vicious opprobrium that can be levelled at those who are seen to have made political decisions on the constitution where the EU is concerned, and earlier this year we saw the level of opprobrium directed at senior members of the judiciary for applying the law. The judiciary’s concern, therefore, is very real. I am not here just to advocate for the judiciary; I am here to advocate for democracy, the separation of powers, and the protection of the constitution. I may well have, as my ultimate goal, an independent Scotland with its own written constitution, but as long as Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom I am very interested in preserving UK citizens’ rights and democracy in the UK as a whole and protecting the notion of separation of powers within the constitution.

The Government do not have to take my word for it. They should look very closely at the evidence given to the House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee on 21 November. Lord Hope of Craighead pointed out that clause 6(2), as presently drafted, gives them a discretionary freedom rather than an obligation. Lord Neuberger, the former President of the Supreme Court, said:

“Clause 6(2), as drafted—it is a matter for a judge whether, and if so in what way, to take into account a decision of the Court of Justice on the same point in the regulation or directive, rather than in our statute. The problem for a judge is whether to take into account diplomatic, political or economic factors when deciding whether to follow the decision of the CJEU. These are normally decisions for the legislature, either to make or to tell judges what to do. We talked about our system in this country of judges being given a wide discretion, but this is an uncomfortably wide discretion, because a judge will have to take into account, or in some cases will be asked to take into account, factors that are rather unusual for a judge to have to take into account and that have political implications. It would be better if we did not maintain this system of judges being free to take decisions into account if they saw fit, if they were given some guidance as to the factors which they can and cannot take into account. Otherwise we are getting judges to step into the political arena.”

The issue of how the judiciary are to be given guidance on the interpretation of retained EU law arises directly from the wording of schedule 5 and takes us back to the wording of clause 6(2).

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 2:54 p.m.

indicated dissent.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 2:55 p.m.

The Solicitor General is raising his eyebrows at me, but if he looks carefully at schedule 5, as I am sure he has, he will see that it talks about the procedure for interpreting retained EU law. That is why I am revisiting these issues. I am also revisiting them because former Supreme Court judges Lord Neuberger and Lord Hope gave this evidence to the House of Lords after our discussions on clause 6(2) in this House. It is new evidence that the Government really should take away and look at before Report.

Break in Debate

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 2:56 p.m.

I am very grateful to the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield for agreeing with me on this point. I would expect him to do so, because he, like me, will be paying very careful regard to what current senior judges and retired judges are saying.

I would like to conclude by quoting what Lord Thomas said to the House of Lords Committee after Lord Neuberger and Lord Hope had given their evidence. He said that he entirely agreed:

“It will be a very real problem for future judicial independence and the rule of law if this”—

the guidance—

“is not clarified.”

Put briefly, the problem is that leaving domestic courts free to make independent judgments on such crucial constitutional issues raises the prospect of politicising the judiciary’s institutional role in the Brexit process, resulting, potentially, in further regrettable attacks on the integrity of UK judges like those we saw earlier this year and last week. I therefore ask the Minister to address this problem before Report. I have no doubt that it will be addressed in the House of Lords, but I think it should be addressed in the elected House. The elected House should sort this out and not leave it to their lordships.

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 2:58 p.m.

Given the spirit in which the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Mr Leslie) moved new clause 21, I was anticipating some form of Christmas truce, and that we would perhaps emerge from our trench lines and play football. As the debate went on, however—this is inevitable on such issues—divisions soon emerged. We have had quite a fierce debate on aspects of the policy surrounding our exit from the EU. First, there was the question of when an impact assessment is not an impact assessment. We then—I am not criticising the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry)—started down the road of, in effect, reopening the debate on clause 6(2). I did raise my eyebrows at her. I take the point that there is a link with schedule 5, but she will immediately recognise that the schedule tries to answer the old question of whether the recognition or understanding of EU law for the purposes of judicial interpretation is a question of fact or a question of law. It is a mechanism to an end, rather than the means of interpretation itself, which is of course within clause 6.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 2:59 p.m.

My point is that, having rightly conceded that it is a question of law, the Government need to address how that law is interpreted by the judiciary.

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 3:01 p.m.

I was about to say to the hon. and learned Lady that, tempted though I am to embark on a long debate with her about why it is important that those who criticise clause 6(2) come up with some sensible alternatives, I am conscious that the Mace is under the Table and that this is a debate in Committee on clause 13 and schedule 5. I do, however, commend to her the evidence I gave to the Lords Constitution Committee last week, at which the very questions she raises were asked of me by Lord Judge and Lord Pannick. In discussion with them, I made the point that, for example, a check list of dos and don’ts for judges would not be an appropriate way forward. There was a measure of agreement with that assertion, but inevitably these issues will be considered in the other place. Having said that, I think that she is right to make no apology for airing these matters in this House, because it is vital, on a Bill as important as this, that we, as elected Members, inform the other place that we have not given it cursory examination, but considered it very carefully indeed. To that extent, I am extremely grateful to her.

There have been many interesting and important contributions to the debate, and I urge the Committee to agree to clause 13 and schedule 5. It is good to see the hon. Member for Nottingham East back in the Chamber. I took the spirit with which he moved his new clause to heart, and I hope that I can respond in kind to him, but there is one word that perhaps sums up the debate, and indeed my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), who used it himself: sesquipedalian. It is a synonym for polysyllabic, and I am afraid that it is inevitable in such a debate that we will use words of more than two, three or, dare I say, four syllables. I will, however, try to curb my natural inclination to enjoy such diversions and to meet the hon. Gentleman’s argument that we speak in plain English.

On schedule 5, which is the meat of this debate, it is worth reminding ourselves—I say this particularly in response to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve)—that we are talking about means of publication and the rules of evidence to be applied. It is important that I gently remind hon. Members of that, lest we start to soar again into the stratosphere of constitutional debate and get unduly worried about the Government seeking to accrue massive power, when really we are talking about, first, how all this information can be presented to the public and, secondly, how the courts should be enjoined to take notice of it.

I will go through the points raised by my right hon. and learned Friend, particularly with regard, first, to paragraph 2 in part 1 on exceptions from the duty to publish. It is important to note that the direction power under paragraph 2(2) does not allow a Minister to make something retained EU law; it is there merely to enable the Government to ensure that legislation that is obviously not retained EU law does not have to be published. We are trying to minimise the potential for confusion, but we have to be realistic. It will not be possible to ensure without exception that only retained EU legislation is published. We do not think—quite properly, in my opinion—that it is the place of the Queen’s printer to make the determination of what such legislation is. That is why the Bill, quite reasonably, gives powers to Ministers to do this instead.

The powers in part 2 are not quite as alarming as might have appeared at first blush. They are clear and limited. The purpose of the creation of new rules of evidence is to allow them to sit alongside existing rules, including those in primary legislation. Importantly, these powers are subject to the affirmative procedure, which ensures a vote in this House. I will give my right hon. and learned Friend two examples of where the power to make a direction under paragraph 2 may be used in respect of all or part of an instrument. The first would concern an EU decision addressed only to a member state other than the UK. For example, the small hive beetle is a particular issue in Italy, and Commission implementing decision 2014/909 concerns certain protective measures with regard to confirmed occurrences of that insect. It is addressed only to Italy and quite clearly should not be published as part of EU retained law.

Break in Debate

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 3:12 p.m.

My right hon. and learned Friend is not just a lawyer but an historian. He will know that a previous Solicitor General, the late Lord Howe, steered the Bill that became the 1972 Act through the House of Commons. I nod to his memory. He knew what he was about, and he helped to produce an extremely important and effective piece of legislation. I make no apology for replicating aspects of it in this Bill.

Let me reassure the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West that the fact that the provision is in a schedule is not significant. It is on the face of the Bill—in primary legislation—and it receives the same high level of scrutiny that it would if it were one of the clauses. I think it only right that clause 13 is drafted in a general way and there is particularity in the schedule. That is good, modern drafting practice, as I am sure the hon. and learned Lady will acknowledge, given her extensive study of other Bills on which we have worked together.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 3:13 p.m.

That was not just my concern. It was a concern expressed by the Law Society of Scotland which, as I have said, informed the SNP amendments. May I take up a point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve)? These are extremely sweeping powers, but they are tucked away in a schedule.

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 3:13 p.m.

I take the hon. and learned Lady’s point with the utmost seriousness, as I hope I always do, but, with respect to her, I think there is no real significance to be attached to the fact that the provision is in a schedule. This is hardly the longest piece of legislation that the House will have seen, but it will certainly be one of the most pored over—and rightly so. The hon. and learned Lady is doing justice to that through her interventions.

Let me now deal directly with new clause 21. Of course I recognise the concerns raised by the hon. Member for Nottingham East, but I do not consider it feasible to impose a statutory duty requiring summaries of all retained direct EU legislation. The scale of that task would be hard to overstate. I have used the word Sisyphean before, and I think that it applies in this case.

According to EUR-Lex, the EU’s legal database, there are currently more than 12,000 EU regulations in force. To impose a statutory duty of requiring plain English summaries of them would, I think, be disproportionate, given that many explanatory materials have already been issued by the EU about EU law—and, indeed, by UK bodies, including the Health and Safety Executive. One example is documentation on the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals regulations published by the European Chemicals Agency. That measure has been mentioned many times in the Committee. I believe that, at present, the law is accessible.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 3rd sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry
Tuesday 21st November 2017

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Ministry of Justice
Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
21 Nov 2017, 3:32 p.m.

Indeed I will. The hon. Lady has, in her usual clear and incisive way, anticipated something that I was going to come to in a minute. Perhaps I will deal with it now, before I come to my list. As she says, the protection of fundamental rights is absolutely central to the Good Friday agreement, and has its own section in that agreement. The fact that the Bill will take the charter out of retained law raises concerns in this respect. The Good Friday agreement requires at least an equivalent level of protection of human rights in Ireland and Northern Ireland. If the charter is taken out of domestic law, there will be no such equivalent protection of human rights in Ireland and Northern Ireland, because once the UK withdraws from the EU, Northern Ireland will no longer benefit from the charter’s protections. This could pose significant problems for the Good Friday agreement—[Interruption.] The Solicitor General is shaking his head—

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Hansard
21 Nov 2017, 3:34 p.m.

I am listening with great care to the hon. and learned Lady’s remarks and to the interventions that she has taken. Let us not forget that the Good Friday agreement was written in 1998, and that the charter of fundamental rights appeared in 2007. It is the European convention on human rights that is the key governing principle here, not the charter.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
21 Nov 2017, 3:34 p.m.

I beg to differ. The Solicitor General is right about the dates, but as we know, the charter is merely a codification of various general rights and principles. We have significant concerns about not incorporating it, notwithstanding the little list that the Minister is going to give us on 5 December, because with all due respect, a list prepared by a Minister does not have the same weight in a court of law as a codification that has been signed up to by a number of countries.

It is not just my view and that of the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) that there will be an issue for the Good Friday agreement. A briefing produced by none less than the Bingham Centre for the rule of law has raised the question of whether non-retention of the charter will impact on Northern Ireland. It has raised a series of questions, which I have just paraphrased, and I look forward to the Solicitor General answering them in more detail, rather than merely saying that there is not a problem. If I may say so, this illustrates the whole problem with the British Government’s approach to the unique situation in which Northern Ireland finds itself as a result a Brexit. There is a constant parrying, and saying, “There is not a problem, it can all be sorted out. It will all be fine.” This is what is causing us problems in the negotiations with the EU27, and particularly with the Republic of Ireland. Mere platitudes and assurances are not enough. We need some detail as to why removing the charter of fundamental rights from domestic law in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland will not pose a problem for the Good Friday agreement. However, I am sure that as we have the Solicitor General here, we will hear that detail later.

Break in Debate

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
21 Nov 2017, 7:44 p.m.

I know that the hon. Lady has a deep, long-term commitment to ensuring that the Good Friday agreement and the subsequent progress are maintained, and I share that commitment 100%. While I may not have the same knowledge that she has of Northern Ireland, I am sensitive to and understand the fact that there is still no essential consensus about what human rights should mean for every corner of Northern Ireland. It is in that spirit that I will be happy to ensure that the impacts on Northern Ireland are fully considered at all stages of any review, re-examination or clarification of the Bill. I am grateful to her for making that observation.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
21 Nov 2017, 7:44 p.m.

Will the Solicitor General give way?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
21 Nov 2017, 7:44 p.m.

I had better make some progress, but I certainly will give way to the hon. and learned Lady in a moment.

Break in Debate

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard

I can assure my hon. Friend that that will be the case. We had a debate about this in a slightly different context earlier in Committee, but I can assure her that all that material is relevant for any court that might have to interpret it.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
21 Nov 2017, 7:51 p.m.

I am just reminding the Solicitor General that I asked him to answer a crucial point earlier relating to the statement made by the Prime Minister’s spokesperson that the Government expect the ECJ’s role to be unchanged during an implementation period of two years following the official Brexit date in March 2019. If that is so, it completely undermines the premise of clause 5 and schedule 1, which revolve around exit day. Is he seriously still considering allowing these clauses to stand part of the Bill, in the light of what was said this morning?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
21 Nov 2017, 7:52 p.m.

The hon. and learned Lady has a keen memory and she will not have forgotten the Government’s commitment to a separate withdrawal agreement Bill, within which will be provisions relating to the implementation, the interim, the transition period— call it what you will. It is to that period that the Prime Minister was addressing her remarks. The fact that this Bill is taking a particular course on legal exit is nothing to do with the transition period, which has to be a separate matter, and the Government have rightly made it clear that they will bring legislation to this House in order for it to determine the law when it comes to the transitional period.

I really must press on now. The right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) made the most important reference to the data protection amendment that stands in his name, but the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O'Hara) also spoke well about this. Let me just make these observations: the UK does not have to be subject to the charter in order to benefit from adequacy decisions on data protection once we leave the EU, because the charter applies to EU institutions and EU member states when acting within the scope of EU law. Countries that benefit from adequacy are third countries and are not required to be subject to the charter. There are many examples of countries that have adequacy by virtue of the data protection directive of 1995, including Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, Uruguay, Argentina and the Faroe Islands.

I must also deal briefly with the further effects of amendments 101 and 336, which specifically seek to set out an ostensibly broader definition of which general principles are to be retained under the Bill to include principles as they are recognised in any EU legislation as well as case law.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Robert Buckland and Joanna Cherry
Tuesday 14th November 2017

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Justice
Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
14 Nov 2017, 9:10 p.m.

I am familiar with that book, but I do not think that it has any relevance to what I am saying at the moment. I remind the hon. Gentleman the Lady Hale is the President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, and she has made the point that what she and her fellow judges require from the Government and the House is clarity in the directions as to how they are to treat the future jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union, because if the guidance is not clear, they will come under the sort of political attack that I am sure the hon. Gentleman, who is a great supporter of the British constitution, would abhor, as I do—although I might actually prefer a Scottish constitution.

As I said earlier, this amendment is not a Trojan horse. It is the result of careful consideration by the organisation Justice and by the Institute for Government. It also has the support of the TUC and, I am delighted to say, the Labour party, as well as the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Fawcett Society. One reason the Equality and Human Rights Commission is so keen on this amendment is because it is also important for rights protections. It is important to remember that EU law is largely about the rights of individuals. The Government’s position paper, published in the summer, seemed to imagine that EU law was all about disputes between the United Kingdom and the EU, but it is not. Most people who make references to the Court of Justice do so in the determination of their individual rights or their rights as a business.

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Hansard
14 Nov 2017, 9:15 p.m.

I am listening with great care to the hon. and learned Lady. She will agree that references to the Court of Justice are made by the courts to interpret a particular provision of EU law, not by individuals. That is an important difference that I am sure she will appreciate.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
14 Nov 2017, 9:16 p.m.

The Solicitor General is absolutely right to correct my rather loose use of language. My point is that the majority of references made to the Court of Justice are made as a result of litigation between individuals or businesses to determine their respective rights rather than, as the Government’s position paper suggested in the summer, between the United Kingdom and the EU. That is not my view; that was the evidence of Professor Sir David Edward, who gave evidence on this topic to the Scottish Parliament in September. He was keen to impress on people that EU law is about the determination of individuals’ rights.