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European Scrutiny Committee publish report on European Union Bill

The European Scrutiny Committee released its report on the proposed European Bill on the day of the Second Reading of the Bill in Parliament.

Chair of the Committee, Bill Cash MP, said:

“The Coalition Government has purported to include a sovereignty clause in the European Union Bill. The Second Reading takes place today on the principle of the Bill.

The European Scrutiny Committee has taken evidence from distinguished constitutional experts over the last four weeks and yesterday agreed its report in the light of that evidence.

Despite strong representations from the Committee, the Government has allowed only four weeks for the Committee to consider the vital questions of Parliamentary sovereignty before Second Reading.

Furthermore, the Foreign Secretary refused to attend the Committee.

The European Union Bill is in its implications, and given the profound effect that the European Union has on the daily lives of the voters and the people of the United Kingdom in virtually ever sphere of activity, of immense importance and in many respects on a par with the original European Communities Act 1972. 

The framework of European law within the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the EU has obvious implications for Parliamentary sovereignty. 

Recent vivid examples of the application of European Union law and jurisdiction include matters relating to the City of London, European economic governance and the Irish bailout, to name but a few. 

It is essential that it is made clear that Parliament, is the ultimate authority, and not the Supreme Court of the Court of Justice of the EU determines the United Kingdom's relationship to the EU.

The conclusions of the Committee are set out in the report. In summary, they are that the Government's assertions in its Explanatory Notes are unjustified and that Clause 18 does not address the vital constitutional issue of the competing primacies of EU and national law. 

This Clause 18 as it is presented is not needed and is merely a reaffirmation of the role of a sovereign Parliament and is not needed.

The Committee disagrees with the Government's view relating to the affirmation of a Common Law position in statute and concludes that "if Parliament wills it may legislate to override the European Communities Act 1972 or the EU Treaties by repealing them, amending them, or any provisions in them, or by clearly and expressly legislating inconsistently with them in respect of EU legislation or generally."

Furthermore, the Committee concludes that if the legislative supremacy of Parliament is under threat it is from judicial opinions in other areas of law.

In the evidence presented to the Committee, the Bill overall is described as going "out of its way to invite litigation" with serious consequences in terms of the views of some of the Supreme Court judges regarding Parliamentary sovereignty which they have recently expressed.

The Committee also concludes that:

"Clause 18 is not a sovereignty clause in the manner claimed by the Government, and the whole premise on which it has been included in the Bill is, in our view, exaggerated."

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