European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:05 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 1:05 pm, 7th September 2017

I am grateful for that intervention and agree with it.

May I move on to other rights, because they are dealt with more severely? Clause 5(4) singles out the charter of fundamental rights for extinction. There are thousands of provisions that are being converted into our law and will have to be modified in some cases to arrive in our law, but only one provision in the thousands and thousands has been singled out for extinction—the charter of fundamental rights. As Mr Grieve argued in an article published yesterday, the principles of the charter provide

“essential safeguards for individuals and businesses”.

That has been particularly important in the fields of LGBT rights, children’s rights and the rights of the elderly.

The Secretary of State asks why this matters. I have here the High Court judgment in the case of David Davis MP, Tom Watson MP and others v. the Secretary of State for the Home Department. This was in 2015, when the present Prime Minister was Home Secretary. David Davis the Back Bencher was bringing to court the now Prime Minister. He will recall that he was challenging the provisions of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014. He was concerned that they would impinge on the ability of MPs to have confidential communications from their constituents. He continued to make that point in debates that we were having a year or two ago. In his argument, he cited the charter. His lawyers made the argument that the charter was important because it went further than the European convention on human rights and therefore provided added protection.

I will not read out paragraph 80 of the judgment, although I am sure that the Secretary of State is familiar with it. As he knows, the Court found in his favour—he was right: the charter did enhance his rights—and rejected the arguments of Mr Eadie, the distinguished QC representing the then Home Secretary, now the Prime Minister. So when the Secretary of State asks whether this move will make any difference, the answer is yes. We can see that from his case. I suspect that if he were still on the Back Benches, he would now be talking to me and others over a cup of coffee about how we should fiercely oppose clause 5(4) and ensure that it came out of the Bill.