APPG on the Rule of Law - Meetings
18th March 2021 - Meeting on Scrutiny of the UK-EU Future Relationship - Parliament's Role in making Brexit Work
The APPG on the Rule of Law held its second meeting of 2021 to consider how Parliament can influence and scrutinise Government decisions on the UK-EU future relationship under the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) and the Joint Committee on the Withdrawal Agreement (WA).
MPs, Peers and Parliamentary Staff met on Zoom to hear contributions from an expert panel chaired by Sir Bob Neill MP. Sir Bob introduced the topics for discussion and noted that one of the things essential to the Rule of Law is good governance and effective scrutiny of the executive.
Dr Brigid Fowler from the Hansard Society introduced some of the main issues including how Commons committees might need to adapt to be able to effectively scrutinise Government activity on the Partnership Council and Joint Committee. She noted that this would be an incremental process with some trial and error, regular review and progressive development.
She was followed by Hilary Benn MP, who was chairman of the House of Commons UK-EU Future Relationship Committee until it was disbanded in 2021. He raised some of the Challenges his committee had faced when questioning ministers about discussions in the Joint Committee on the Withdrawal Agreement. He also discussed some of the possibilities for a Parliamentary Partnership Assembly with representatives from the UK and the EU, but noted that it would require a motion from the Government to allow Parliament to act on it further.
Susanne Oberhauser, the Head of the EU Parliament's UK Liaison Office informed the meeting of what the EU Parliament was doing to hold the EU Commission to account on the other side of the Joint Committee and Partnership Council, and some of the internal discussions taking place on ratification of the TCA.
Finally, His Excellency Alexandre Fasel, the Swiss Ambassador to the UK gave his reflections on how the Swiss-EU relationship under bilateral treaties worked, and the role of the Swiss Federal Assembly in influencing and overseeing Government policy on relations with the EU.
Parliamentarians then discussed the issues raised by the speakers, including how the devolved legislatures of the UK might be able to contribute to a Parliamentary Partnership Assembly and the progress made by select Committees to adapt to the new UK-EU relationship.
The meeting was a success, and provided a useful opportunity for Parliamentarians to meet and consider the ways they are able to influence and oversee ministers' work on the UK-EU future relationship.
Inaugural Meeting 2021
The All Party Parliamentary Group on the Rule of Law held its inaugural meeting in this Parliament on Monday 8th February. New Chair Sir Bob Neill MP presided over the election of officers and formally reconstituted the APPG, for which the Bingham Centre provides the secretariat.
The former Independent Reviewer of Counter Terrorism legislation Lord Anderson of Ipswich QC was elected Lords Co-Chair. Lord Pannick QC, Joanna Cherry QC MP, Baroness Lister, Tony Lloyd MP and Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb were duly elected Vice Chairs. Murray Hunt, Director of the Bingham Centre was confirmed as the Group's legal adviser.
Overseas Operations Bill
The All Party Parliamentary Group on the Rule of Law joined forces with the APPG on Drones to hold a briefing for parliamentarians this week on the Overseas Operations Bill, where parliamentarians heard expert presentations on the Rule of Law issues arising from the Bill.
Former Judge Advocate General HHJ Jeff Blackett criticised the Bill as "ill-conceived" and raised concerns that it would increase the chances that British service personnel may be brought before the International Criminal Court. This was echoed by Chatham House's Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who elaborated further on the Bill's inconsistency with the UK's international law obligations under the Geneva Convention and the Convention against Torture.
Emma Norton of the Centre for Military Justice explained the reasons it was necessary for the Courts to have discretion to hear cases late. The Bill's absolute 6 year time limit on civil claims against the MOD could leave service personnel being blocked from making meritorious claims, as illustrated by examples where judges had allowed out of time cases to proceed in the past.
General Sir Nick Parker, former Commander Land Forces, spoke of his concerns about the operational consequences for the military, particularly the challenges of forging coalitions with our allies. Sir Nick recommended improving operational record-keeping and building up armed forces investigations capability whilst ensuring there was greater support for personnel who were the subjects of investigation.
We were also joined by General Paul Brereton who discussed the Australian experience, with particular reference to what he learned whilst conducting the inquiry into the conduct of Australian special forces in Afghanistan that led to the Brereton Report.
After the speeches and questions from attendees there was a lively discussion on potential amendments to the Bill at Lords Committee Stage. The message from the meeting was clear: if UK troops have committed abuses overseas, we as a nation should seek to remove that stain on our reputation through proper investigation and prosecution. With this Bill, we run the risk of damaging our reputation for upholding the Rule of Law internationally, and materially raise the possibility of British service personnel being investigated and tried by the International Criminal Court.
1 April 2019 'Brexit, Parliament and The Rule of Law: extending Article 50 and implementing the Withdrawal Agreement'
This meeting considered the events leading up to 29 March and discussed Rule of Law challenges facing Parliament. The expert speakers for the meeting were:
- Professor Kenneth Armstrong, Professor of European Law at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Sidney Sussex College
- Professor Charlotte O'Brien, University of York
- Swee Leng Harris, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, The Legal Education Foundation and Senior Policy Adviser, Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, and,
- Dr Ronan Cormacain, Consultant Legislative Counsel
12 December 2018 'Parliament, The Withdrawal Agreement and The Rule of Law'
This meeting considered the Rule of Law issues that arose in relation to the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill. The expert speakers for the meeting were:
- Professor Paul Craig, Professor of English Law and Fellow of St. John's College, University of Oxford,
- Maya Lester QC, Barrister, Brick Court Chambers, part of the legal team in Wightman,
- Dr Brigid Fowler, Senior Researcher, the Hansard Society, and,
- Raphael Hogarth, Institute for Government
31 October 2018 'The Rule of Law Implications of the Use of Parliamentary Privilege'
The Bingham Centre convened an expert discussion to provide parliamentarians with an opportunity to discuss important topical issues concerning the rule of law implications of the use of parliamentary privilege. Attendees' contributions largely focused on whether discussion of the subject matter of an injunction by Members could be incompatible with the rule of law principles of legality and access to justice.
The expert speakers for the meeting were:
- Hugh Tomlinson QC, Matrix Chambers
- Oonagh Gay OBE, former Head of the Parliament and Constitution Centre, House of Commons
- Sir David Beamish KCB, former Clerk of the Parliaments
31 October 2018 'A Vision for Public Legal Education and The Rule of Law'
The Bingham Centre is a member of the Solicitor General's Public Legal Education (PLE) Committee and has been working with other civil society organisations to produce a vision statement that will inform the delivery of PLE across the UK, to ensure that all citizens are aware of their legal rights. This launched that vision, which can be read here.
The event comprised part of National Justice Week, a seven-day campaign led by the Bar Standards Board, Solicitors Regulation Authority and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives to give effect to the regulatory objective of increasing public understanding of the citizen's legal rights and duties. The group hopes that in celebrating and appraising the transformative effect of PLE, civil society and the education sector will be better equipped to improve the legal capability of everyone in our society.
The expert speakers for the meeting were:
- Victoria Speed, Joint Director of Pro Bono & CSR at BPP University
- Tom Franklin, Chief Executive of Young Citizens
- Robert Buckland QC MP, Solicitor General
- Amanda Finlay, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Law for Life
- Michael Olatokun FRSA, Bingham Centre Research Fellow in Citizenship
10 October 2018 'The Rule of Law Implications of the Withdrawal Agreement, the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill and the Political Declaration on the Future Relationship'
As the UK stands poised to leave the European Union at the end of March 2019, this meeting was convened to assist parliamentarians in grappling with the large number of complex political and constitutional questions that must be navigated in order to ensure that Brexit is compatible with principles of the Rule of Law. The meeting focused on the impact of the Brexit Agreements on citizens' rights, the role of the courts and Parliament, common rulebooks and Northern Ireland. The expert speakers for the meeting were:
- Professor Alison Young, Sir David Williams Professor of Public Law, University of Cambridge
- Dr Sylvia de Mars, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Newcastle
- Sir Stephen Laws KCB QC, First Parliamentary Counsel 2006-2012
- Paul Hardy, Brexit Director DLA Piper, Senior Legal Adviser to the House of Lords EU Committee 2014-2017
The Bingham Centre has produced a report, The Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration- A Preliminary Rule of Law Analysis, which details significant rule of law considerations ahead of the publication of the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill.
9 October 2018 'The Contribution of Human Rights Defenders Worldwide to the Rule of Law'
To mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, PBI UK, together with the All Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG) and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rule of Law, hosted an interactive panel event to honour the work of human rights defenders and to reflect on the contribution of human rights defenders worldwide to the rule of law.
A panel of leading experts spoke including FCO Minister for Human Rights, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Anders Kompass, Senior Swedish Diplomat, as well as human rights defenders from Guatemala and Nepal. The event was chaired by Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP.
17 July 2018 'The Rule of Law Implications of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill'
The APPG considered the rule of law issues that arise in relation to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (2017-2019). Max Hill QC, Dr Lindsey Bell and Corey Stoughton assessed the extent to which clauses 1-3 of the Bill give effect to core principles of the Rule of Law.
25 June 2018 'Current Challenges in Armed Conflict, and State Accountability in Urban Warfare'
The event encouraged MPs and Peers to apply the framework of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) when scrutinising the actions of the UK Government and its partners in situations of armed conflict. The expert panel speakers focused on civilian protection, detention and use of drones. Case studies of conflict in urban areas were used to illustrate the importance of IHL principles in modern warfare.
16 April 2018 The Data Protection Bill: What Do Rule of Law Principles Mean for AI and Data Processing?
The meeting provided MPs and Peers with an opportunity to discuss the application of rule of law principles to data gathering, sharing and processing, including using artificial intelligence (AI), under the Data Protection Bill. There was a particular focus on the potential risks and opportunities for the proposed 'framework for data processing by government' to undermine or reflect rule of law principles. Some attendees reflected on the exemption within the Bill for information processed for immigration processes and the understated potential for powers created under the legislation to be used in a national security context.
11 December 2017 Parliamentary Accountability of the Security and Intelligence Services
Convened in conjunction with the APPGs on Drones and Extraordinary Rendition. The meeting saw Members discuss the remit and achievements of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). Several discussions focused on the differences between the powers of the ISC and those of Select Committees.
22 November 2017 Discussion with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers
This event was jointly held with the APPG on Human Rights and the Law Society of England and Wales. The expert speaker was Diego García-Sayán, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.
The meeting was chaired by the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP.
15 November 2017 The UK's Risk of Complicity in Unlawful Acts
This event was convened in conjunction with the APPGs on Drones and Extraordinary Rendition. The meeting was chaired by the Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC MP and Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts.
9 October 2017 - Expert Working Group on the EU Withdrawal Bill 2017
On 9 October 2017, an Expert Working Group on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and the Rule of Law was set up by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, in partnership with UCL's Constitution Unit. Chaired by the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, the group brings together 27 senior experts from both Houses of Parliament, legal practice, civil society and academia with a wide range of relevant experience to consider the implications of the Bill for the rule of law. The Group's purpose is to generate informed discussion about the most significant rule of law issues raised by the Bill in order to inform debates about it, and how it could be improved, in Parliament and among the wider public.
4 July 2017 - 2017 General Meeting and Rule of Law Questions for the Repeal Bill
- Draft Minutes for the 2017 General Meeting
- Report from 4 July 2017 Meeting on Rule of Law Questions for the Repeal Bill
27 March 2017 - The Role of the UN Universal Periodic Review in Assessing the UK's Human Rights Record
Convened in conjunction with the APPG on the United Nations, Parliamentary Human Rights Group and the British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union.
14 March 2017 - EU Law, the Investigatory Powers Act, and UK-EU Cross-Border Crime and Security Cooperation
30 November 2016 - Reasoned Discussion of the High Court's Decision in Miller and What Might Happen
Convened in conjunction with the UK Constitutional Law Association
On 27 October 2016, the Bingham Centre co-organised a workshop at Edinburgh Law School on 'Brexit and the British Bill of Rights', along with the Europa Institute and the Global Justice Academy of the University of Edinburgh, and the Human Rights Centre at Queen's University Belfast. A research paper edited by Dr Tobias Lock and Dr Tom Gerald Daly (University of Edinburgh) is available here and presents key themes from the workshop. The workshop was generously supported by the Thomas Paine Initiative.
24 October 2016 - How Can Brexit Be Done under the Rule of Law?
18 October - Rule of Law in Ethiopia
Convened in conjunction with the All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group
13 July 2016 - Challenges to Rule of Law in Iran
Held jointly with the APPG on Human Rights
5 July 2016 - 2016 AGM and The HRA and ECHR in the Devolved Nations
10 May 2016 - Doing good business: challenges of corruption and accountability
Held jointly with the APPG on Anti-Corruption
10 March 2016 - Meeting with Chinese Lawyers
Held jointly with the APPG on Human Rights and APPG on China
2 February 2016 - The Death of the Human Rights Act, the Birth of a New Constitutional Settlement?
8 December 2015 - Investigatory Powers: Legal privilege and the 'double lock'
Joint Meeting of the APPG on the Rule of Law and APPG on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
9 November 2015 - The Ministerial Code and International Rule of Law
20 October 2015 - Immigration Bill 2015 and the Rule of Law
Joint Meeting of the APPG on the Rule of Law and APPG on Migration
12 October 2015 - Roundtable with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Held jointly with the APPG on Human Rights and the APPG on the UN
14 July 2015 - Non-Violent Extremism and the Rule of Law
8 July 2015 - Roundtable with Ucha Nanuashvili, Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia
Held jointly with the APPG on Human Rights
3 June 2015 - Inaugural Election of Officers