Clause 1 — United Kingdom loans to Ireland

Part of Loans to Ireland Bill (Allocation of Time) – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 15th December 2010.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 4:45 pm, 15th December 2010

The provision appears to apply to the Irish component, but because of the implications of what I am saying and the interlocking aspects in the kaleidoscope, it is extremely difficult to work out exactly what is intended by such opaque words. What I am asking for is very modest: simply the removal of all doubt by making it clear that any such loan would be

"other than a loan by virtue of any provision by or under the European Communities Act 1972."

If all doubt were to be removed in that way, it would be the end of the story and there would be no problem, so why not do it? I look forward to the Minister's response.

Another issue arises under paragraph 6 of the summary of key terms document. The paragraph covers events of default, and sub-paragraph (h) states that one event of default will be

"the Borrower"-

Ireland-

"not being or ceasing to be a member of the European Union".

Why would such a provision be wanted if it were not integral to the fact that Ireland is a member of the European Union? I do not think I need to advance the case any further as it is very simple: if we would exclude Ireland from the arrangements by virtue of its ceasing to be, or not being, a member of the EU, that must have special significance, otherwise it would not be stated. That is another exceedingly worrying feature.

Paragraph 8 refers to the governing law, and it states:

"The credit agreement and any non-contractual obligations arising out of or in connection with it will be governed by English law."

Paragraph 9 is on enforcement, and the document's authors have clearly thought a lot about this matter, and the more they think about it the more worried I get, because they are transposing their thinking into the provisions of the Bill and this document:

"The English courts will have exclusive jurisdiction in relation to any dispute including a dispute relating to non-contractual obligations arising out of or in connection with the credit agreement."

That gets to the heart of the problem, because anything that within law is under the jurisdiction of the European Union and within the framework of the European Court under the European Communities Act 1972 cannot be excluded from that jurisdiction by such words in a document of this kind that is "for information purposes"-hence our European Scrutiny Committee report on the relationship between parliamentary sovereignty and the judiciary. Therefore, merely writing in such a document that something will be governed by English law and that the English courts will have exclusive jurisdiction in relation to any dispute is not worth the paper it is written on.

If it is within the European Union legal framework, that means the European Court will get its hands on it. It may be that if there was a dispute or default or any of the other difficulties that could arise from the agreement in the Bill as enacted-as I rather suppose it will be-that will in no way alter the fact that ultimately, as long as parliamentary sovereignty prevails in the light of the European Communities Act, the Supreme Court will not prevent it from falling within the framework of the European Court of Justice.

Of course, it would be open to any future parliamentary Bill to try to unravel the arrangement, but what a pity it would be if we found that the fast-track arrangements we are experiencing today led us to the situation that I have described, simply because we were not prepared to listen to the argument that could resolve the problem by excluding the European jurisdiction. The legal advisers, the Treasury officials and the Minister may well be wrong. If they are wrong, we are in deep trouble. If they are doubtful, perhaps they could listen to those of us who have been proved right on a number of past occasions.

These are my final words-not from Cassandra, but from me. When things go wrong, it is much better to have taken advice beforehand and keep ahead of the curve, rather than allowing the curve to catch up with us.