New Clause 5 — Effect and justiciability of this Act

Bills Presented – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 15th July 2014.

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Votes in this debate

  • Division number 38
    A majority of MPs voted not to ensure the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill takes effect regardless of European Union treaties making the UK subject to European Union law and courts.

‘For the avoidance of doubt and notwithstanding sections 2 and 3 of the European Communities Act 1972, this Act shall have effect and shall be construed as having effect and shall be justiciable by the courts of the United Kingdom.’—(Sir William Cash.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I am grateful to be called at this late hour. This new clause is important. I look to the Home Secretary;
she knows exactly where I am coming from and where I am going. She may believe that we will be defeated on this new clause, but nothing will prevent me from making the point, which is that the Bill could become pointless. The difficulty, which she understands—I am sure that her advisers have already explained it—is simply that clauses 1 and 2 will enable the Home Secretary to serve a data retention notice on public telecommunications operators and to make secondary legislation governing such notices. However, there is real doubt that the precise meaning of the European Court of Justice’s Digital Rights Ireland judgment has the effect of potentially eviscerating the Bill.

Professor Peers of Essex university draws attention to the objection by the Court to the requirement to retain all communications data. The fact that the directive required all data to be retained from all subscribers was indeed the first of the considerations taken into account by the Court in arriving at the conclusion that the directive was disproportionate. The problem is that it is within the framework of European law. This Bill is within the scope of EU law and so is the charter of fundamental rights, and the general principle of EU law will continue to apply. What that means in practice is very simple: sections 2 and 3 of the European Communities Act 1972 have the effect of ensuring that the retention directive, its replacements and all that follows from it are and have to be implemented in UK law. The United Kingdom also has an obligation under the voluntarily enacted 1972 Act to accept the jurisdiction of the European Court.

The European Court has already adjudicated on this matter, but the problem is that within the framework of this Bill there are grave uncertainties that have already been expressed by myself and others during the course of these proceedings. The bottom line is therefore whether we are to make uncertainty more uncertain by providing for a situation in which we enact a Bill that might be challenged by the European Court through arrangements that some people who do not like its provisions might decide to entertain. If they do so, it will go back through the Court of First Instance and then the Court of Appeal before going to our own Supreme Court and being referred to the European Court of Justice. As with the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, which was struck down by our own High Court in pursuance of the European Communities Act 1972, which is a voluntary

Act, the net result if the European Court of Justice makes such a determination will be that the United Kingdom will be faced with this Bill being struck down as enacted.

I do not need to say any more, because I have made the point throughout the course of our proceedings. I implore the Government to take note of the new clause, which has been carefully considered by some very senior lawyers, both academics and practising lawyers. They are convinced that the Bill is at risk and so, as I did with the enactment of the Lisbon treaty, I tabled a provision that said that notwithstanding the European Communities Act the charter of fundamental rights would not apply. The Home Secretary might smile now, but I have to say to her that that is now a serious choice for the Government. Either they except the charter of fundamental rights or, through amendment of the 1972 Act, they should ensure that the charter of fundamental rights does not apply. That also applies to these provisions and I need say no more for the moment. I sincerely trust that the Minister will give a positive response.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

My hon. Friend has raised these points during the course of the debate and I note the points that he makes, but I restate my previous points. The Bill is intended to give greater legal certainty through the statutory underpinning it provides rather than by relying on secondary legislation with the challenges and risks that might face in the future. We have framed the legislation in the context of the ECJ judgment. We have reflected on it carefully and believe that it is robust in its construction. I note that my hon. Friend will continue rightly to challenge on these European issues, but I hope that in the context of today’s debate, he will be minded to withdraw his new clause.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 25, Noes 440.

Division number 38 Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill — New Clause 5 — Act To Have Effect Despite European Union Treaties

A majority of MPs voted not to ensure the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill takes effect regardless of European Union treaties making the UK subject to European Union law and courts.

Aye: 25 MPs

No: 440 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Absent: 181 MPs

Absents: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Proceedings interrupted (Order, this day).

The Chair put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Order, this day).