Charter of Fundamental Rights – Government Report

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:15 pm on 21st November 2017.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham East 1:15 pm, 21st November 2017

I want to make a little more progress, if I may, because I need to reference a number of other amendments.

I hope this is not the case, but it seems to me that the Prime Minister, worried that hard-line Eurosceptics and Brexiteers on her Benches are champing and nipping at her heels, had to throw them a bone. There was a need to give them something, and therefore the charter of fundamental rights was the scalp she felt she had to throw in the direction of some, but not all, Conservative Members. I hope that is not the case, because significant protections on data, on children’s rights and on public health—even the protections that the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union himself has used—are rights and privileges that we should jealously guard. It is our job in this Parliament to stand up and point out when the Executive are potentially trying to erode many of those rights. I hope we can keep the charter or, at the very least, have a report on its effect.

Amendment 62 also addresses changes in rights. This is not a pure copy-and-paste exercise, and the amendment seeks to preserve something known as the Francovich rule in our legal system. Essentially, it is a fundamental principle of any democracy that Governments should not be above the law. In EU law, the principle is made real by the Francovich rule, which was established by case law that provides citizens with tools to recover damages when their Government fall short of legal obligations. In this case, again, the Government are trying to do away with those protections, and I tabled the amendment—other hon. Members have tabled similar amendments—to probe the Government and to find out what will be the effect of removing the Francovich protection.