Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Protection of Freedoms Bill

Part of Resource Extraction (Transparency and Reporting) – in the House of Commons at 9:26 pm on 1st March 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 9:26 pm, 1st March 2011

As I said, I am extremely glad that many of the provisions are being dealt with, as they needed to be dealt with—but not in this manner. Notwithstanding the Human Rights Act, if it was done as my Bill on terrorism will provide, for example, we could preserve habeas corpus and avoid all the difficulties that have arisen in relation to control orders and pre-charge detentions, on our terms. That is the way we should be going, but that is for another day.

The Bill takes us in the wrong direction. As I said in an intervention on the Home Secretary about powers of entry, the Library note states that

“around one third of these powers of entry derive from regulations made under the European Communities Act 1972.”

The Home Secretary said it was important for us to get rid of many of the 1,272 powers of entry, but, as I pointed out to her then, it is essential for us to get rid of the regulations made under the European Communities Act 1972 as well. I think she would have accepted that, had it not been for the existence of a rather considerable problem: we cannot get rid of the regulations made under the 1972 Act without expressly providing in the legislation that, notwithstanding the Act, we should act in that way. There is an element of what I would not describe as hypocrisy, but would certainly describe as contradiction, in the principle behind the Bill.

I could give many other instances of overlap with the European Court of Human Rights, but I shall merely observe that I think it extremely unfortunate that this is being sold as the Protection of Freedoms Bill when, for practical purposes, it is taking us further and deeper into European integration. I say that without really wanting to have to say it. It would be easy to step back and say, as my hon. Friend Ms Bagshawe said just now, that it does some good. Indeed, I have heard many Members say that there is a great deal of good in it. However, as I said to the Home Secretary earlier, although there may be good intentions behind it, we must ask ourselves what kind of law we want in this country.

When the Supreme Court speaks of the rule of law, I ask yet again: which law, and who will enforce it? We already know that there are serious problems, but here is another one. In one of the cases in question, after the House of Lords had made its judgment the Supreme Court was brought in, and, because the European Court of Human Rights had made a decision in the meantime, decided to endorse that decision rather than the decision made by our own courts. Some very difficult questions arise. There seems to be an increasing tendency for the Supreme Court to assent to the manner in which the European Court of Human Rights makes its decisions, effectively moving into a new arena in which what Parliament may decide is overridden, and making decisions that are not necessarily what the electorate expected when they elected us as Members of Parliament.

Let me also mention, in parenthesis, the accession of the European Union to the European convention on human rights. As I discussed the issue during our debates on the European Union Bill, I shall not go over the territory again, save to say that it creates a great deal of uncertainty about which of the jurisdictions will prevail. I regret to say that I believe that what is happening in the Bill is not what was expected to happen. Some commentators may misunderstand it, but the truth is that if we do not get the principle right—the principle of who rules—we will find ourselves drawn increasingly into a web that is growing all the time, involving the sovereignty of the House and decision making.

I believe that this is entirely deliberate. I am absolutely certain that the Home Secretary has been properly briefed. I think that she knows exactly what is in her Bill. I think that she wants it, I think that she is determined to have it, and I think that the coalition is completely and utterly convinced of its merits. Indeed, the Home Secretary said the following in a statement on the judgment in the Gillan and Quinton case:

“The Government cannot appeal this judgment, although we would not have done so had we been able.”—[Hansard, 8 July 2010; Vol. 513, c. 540.]

This is therefore about an attitude of mind: it is about there being a determination to go down a certain route, irrespective of the consequences for how we in this House legislate. I therefore simply say that I think there are many good reasons for adapting some of the provisions that are currently on the statute book, but the key is how we do it. The crucial point is that if we do it the wrong way, all we will end up doing is reducing the right of this House to legislate for itself.