Jim McConalogue: Protecting parliamentary sovereignty
It is well worth reading Paul Goodman’s article on the EU Bill and the clauses being put forward and debated today.
Firstly, the sovereignty of Parliament is the democratic basis of the UK constitution but has become increasingly questioned by judges. Many will remember reading the election manifesto pledge and the Prime Minister made clear the need for a “Sovereignty Bill”, the purpose of which is to restrain “unaccountable judges”. But Clause 18 of the EU Bill is not a “sovereignty clause” and it would clearly undermine parliamentary sovereignty, by encouraging judicial supremacy. It is vital therefore that MPs ‘reaffirm’ Parliament’s sovereignty as a fact of our political system by voting for Bill Cash’s amendments today.
Secondly, as Paul Goodman picks up on the observations of Martin Howe QC that Clause 18 “is sound in principle, long overdue, and should be strongly supported”, it is worth noting that Howe provided superb written evidence to the European Scrutiny Committee, making clear that “the heart of the problem is remedying any possible ambiguity in the 1972 Act itself”, which as it stands, this Bill does not currently do. See his evidence here. That is why vital amendments are needed.
After all, one thing above all else that is needed is clarity – ambiguity opens the door for the judges and the common law principle to apply and thereby assert their authority.