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Constitutional Legislation

Attorney General – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 25th February 2016.

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Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Attorney-General

The Government are considering the devolution implications of the Bill of Rights carefully. That will of course include engaging fully with the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Photo of Callum McCaig Callum McCaig Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Energy and Climate Change)

It emerged during an evidence session to the House of Lords Constitution Committee that the UK Supreme Court may be given a new role as a UK constitutional court. Given that the UK Supreme Court is the final court of appeal for Scottish civil cases and has a role in the devolution aspects of Scottish criminal cases, will the Attorney General commit to consulting with the Scottish Government before any such proposals are included in a consultation?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Attorney-General

If the hon. Gentleman is referring to the Lord Chancellor’s evidence to that Committee, which I have read, he is not quite right; the Lord Chancellor was talking about the prospects for considering how the Supreme Court might fulfil a different role, and he was referring to the German example of how that is done. The hon. Gentleman will also know that no proposals have yet been brought forward; he will see them when they are. As I, the Lord Chancellor and others have said, we will ensure that there is proper consultation on any proposals.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Scottish National Party, Paisley and Renfrewshire North

As the Attorney General will be aware, both the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights have independently commented on the undesirability of any overlap between the proposed consultation on the Bill of Rights and pre-election periods, including for the Scottish Parliament elections in May. What discussions has he had with the Justice Secretary regarding publication of the consultation?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Attorney-General

Again, the hon. Gentleman will have to wait to see the proposals when they are brought forward. On timing, he will know that the Cabinet Office has very clear guidelines on respect for purdah periods before elections, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor is keen that all due regard is paid to them.

Photo of Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Trade and Investment)

The Attorney General might not be aware that the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights, Alex Neil MSP, recently wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice to express concern that he has not sought to discuss the proposal to repeal the Human Rights Act with the Scottish Government. Given the wide implications of any repeal of the Act on Scotland, does the Attorney General agree that the Secretary of State for Justice must formally engage with the Scottish Government to discuss their concerns?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Attorney-General

The hon. Lady is right; I have not seen that letter. But I do know that Mr Neil, and indeed other Scottish Government Ministers, have had contact with UK Government Ministers to discuss these matters. I can reassure her that when the proposals are brought forward, there will be proper consultation with the devolved Administrations.

Photo of Richard Arkless Richard Arkless Scottish National Party, Dumfries and Galloway

The impending imposition of the British Bill of Rights could have the effect of curtailing the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice in Luxembourg as well as the Court in Strasbourg. Is it not the case that that will require further renegotiation with our EU partners and, therefore, should it not have formed a crucial part of the recent so-called renegotiation?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Attorney-General

I am not sure that there is much appetite anywhere in Europe for re-opening those negotiations. The hon. Gentleman might find that there are proposals coming from this Government to make our relationship with the charter of fundamental rights clearer, based on protocol 30 of the treaties which, as he will be aware, was negotiated by a previous Government. The protocol makes it clear that the charter does not extend rights in this country. We will bring forward further proposals on clarifying that, and again he will have a good opportunity to discuss them when he sees them.