Lord chancellor Dominic Raab has announced that the government’s human rights and judicial review reforms will not strive to take any alternative routes with parliamentary inspection.
Dominic Raab appeared in front of the Joint Committee on Human Rights this week, and was questioned about an interview he gave with the Sunday Telegraph in October, in which he divulged that he is drawing up a ‘mechanism’ to enable the government to propose ad hoc legislation that would ‘correct’ court judgments that ministers surmise are incorrect.
Harriet Harman MP, the Committee chair, highlighted that parliament can alter the law by validating legislation, which the courts must then put in place. ‘So what is this mechanism?’ she asked.
Raab replied: ‘I’ve said you’ve got two options really. You just say that parliament brings forward any legislation it wants to correct any piece of case law that it doesn’t like at any particular point and that’s what the constitution says. A number of judges have said “of course, that’s what parliament is there for”. And there’s a separate question – and it’s a moot point at this stage – whether or not there’s a mechanism to allow that to be done in a specific or special way.
‘But let’s be very clear about it. You would want to make sure you retained all of the due scrutiny you get. I’ve talked about the options for it. But let me reassure you, we would not be talking about taking any shortcuts with due parliamentary scrutiny. I know exactly where that’s going.’
Harman noted that it was not just to do with scrutiny but decision-making. ‘It’s not just that parliament scrutinises legislation,’ she said. ‘Parliament decides on legislation. Government doesn’t decide on legislation. What I just want you to be clear on, is you’re not talking about the government being able to change the law other than bringing the law to parliament and seeking parliament’s agreement for parliament to decide to change the law.’
Raab responded: ‘Of course. Parliament would have to make the decision. You’re absolutely right. Having talked about separation of powers, the principle of separation of powers and law-making prerogatives of parliament are absolutely crucial.’
The lord chancellor remained guarded on the government’s reply to the independent review on the Human Rights Act, and if it will include a British Bill of Rights, but reassured he would consider any proposals.