Amendment 19

Part of Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Committee (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 2:30 pm on 14 February 2024.

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Photo of Lord Hoffmann Lord Hoffmann Crossbench 2:30, 14 February 2024

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Clarke asked whether there was any precedent for the kind of legislation we are considering, in which some question of fact is declared to be the case to the exclusion of any contrary decision by a court. There are such precedents, but you have to go a long way back in our history to find them.

In 1531, there was an unfortunate incident at a dinner party given by the Bishop of Rochester. All the people who ate their dinner became sick, and one of them died. This was not, at the time, put down to the inadequacy of the health and safety laws in the 16th century, but suspicion fell upon the cook. The King had a horror of poisoning. He was more or less a contemporary of Lucrezia Borgia and recognised that it was being used as a political weapon all over the country. He came down to Parliament, to your Lordships’ House, and promoted a Bill that became an Act. It declared, first, that poisoning was a form of treason; secondly, that the penalty for it was to be boiled alive; and, thirdly—this is the point—that the cook had been guilty of this crime and no trial was to take place. They were probably concerned that some lefty lawyers might get the cook off if it went to trial. The result was that the cook was duly boiled alive before an appreciative audience at Smithfield. That is the sort of precedent which one has to look at in order to justify what is being done now.

Since then, for centuries, we have had the development of the principles of the rule of law and the separation of powers—principles which English constitutional lawyers have written about with pride and foreign lawyers have written about with admiration. I suggest to your Lordships that that is where we ought to stay.