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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:30 pm on 23rd April 2018.

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Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice) 7:30 pm, 23rd April 2018

My Lords, I am obliged to noble Lords for the contributions that have been made. With respect to the point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, about the position of the Lord Chancellor and the rest of the Government, perhaps I might repeat what I said earlier: I assure the House that the whole Government, the Lord Chancellor especially, steadfastly defend the independence of the judiciary. I believed I had said that before but I am happy to repeat it.

On this question of the ossification of the law, which has been raised, particularly by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas—indeed, it is a matter that we have discussed—we have to remember that until exit only the Court of Justice of the European Union is in a position to see us depart from a previous decision of that court. The timeline for taking a case through the CJEU does not bear scrutiny in comparison with the timeline for taking a case to the United Kingdom Supreme Court. The feeling of the Government is that if we are removing the Court of Justice of the European Union, it is appropriate to put in its place the United Kingdom Supreme Court in that context, and that is what we have sought to do and what we intend to do.

That is a policy decision, I appreciate, and there is a suggestion that perhaps it can be brought down to the Inner House of the Court of Session, and the Court of Appeal. That has been considered, but we do not feel at this time that that is the right way forward, so I cannot give any reassurance that we intend to revisit that point. I feel that the decision we have made is the appropriate one in the circumstances but clearly we will have to consider in due course whether that gives rise to any difficulties with respect to the reference of cases to the Supreme Court.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, is aware, it is open to the Supreme Court to, in effect, accelerate cases that it considers to be of particular materiality of importance. Therefore, that facility is already available. But I have discussed this matter with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, and it is not our intention to revisit it before Third Reading. I hope that noble Lords will be able to support the government amendments.