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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 23rd April 2018.

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Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Convenor of the Crossbench Peers 7:15 pm, 23rd April 2018

My Lords, we have the luxury of having three different formulations for a possible amendment to Clause 6(2) thanks to the ingenuity of the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Faulks, and the Minister. For my part, I prefer the Minister’s version, which seems to be, in a subtle way, a little more generous than the formulation of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, which is:

“A court … may have regard to anything done … after exit day … where it considers it relevant to the proper interpretation of retained EU law”.

The government amendment says,

“relevant to any matter before the court or tribunal”.

I suspect that most of these issues will be issues of interpretation, but it is perhaps wiser to have the broader formulation just in case the formula in the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, is too tight to include something else.

As for “relevant and helpful” from the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, one can regard something as “relevant and unhelpful” as well as helpful. Therefore, I am not sure that it really adds very much. Obviously, a court would not do anything with it if it is unhelpful. I suspect that those words are surplus to what one is really talking about.

I have two other points. So far as Amendment 23 is concerned, the additional words:

“Subject to this and subsections (3) to (6)”,

are necessary because of the change from the prohibition in the original formula—that is,

“need not have regard to”— to the new formula, “may”. When you use “may” it is as well to have the cautionary words just to make it clear. There is another view: that the amendment is unnecessary because the court will, of course, look at the entire section in understanding what it is supposed to do, but it does no harm to put those words in. In the interests of clarification, it is helpful to have them there.

Finally, I add a word of support to the point the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, made about allowing the Court of Appeal and the Inner House, as well as the Supreme Court, to consider themselves not bound by retained EU case law. One has to bear in mind that the only way these issues will reach the Supreme Court under the formula in the Bill is by means of an appeal. It is not suggested that there would be a direct reference to the court. I am sure the court would not want that, because it would wish to have the issues properly focused by proceedings in the lower court.

I may be corrected if I am wrong, but I suppose that use can be made of the “leapfrog” procedure: if something comes up at first instance, it is possible to leap over the Court of Appeal direct to the Supreme Court. That may be a useful avenue in urgent cases. Usually, the Supreme Court is helped by the decision of the lower court. If the argument is focused at the lower court, it may not agree with it but it will at least have flushed out points that need not trouble the Supreme Court when dealing with the issue at the later stage. There is therefore something to be said for allowing the appeal courts to take up the same position as the Supreme Court in this field.

I simply endorse what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, said as something that the Government might like to consider. I do not know whether they are considering discussing the matter with the President of the Supreme Court to get her view, but there might be something to be said for that as well.