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Murray Hunt

Biography Murray Hunt is the Director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law. He has a lifelong interest in the ways and means by which the values a society considers fundamental attain and keep a special normative status, how that special status can be reconciled with a commitment to representative democracy, and how to get practitioners and theorists to talk to each other about these questions so that practice is informed by theory, and theory informed by practice. From 2004 to 2017,…

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Ronan Cormacain

Biography Dr Cormacain is a Senior Research Fellow at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, British Institute of International and Comparative Law. He is leading the Rule of Law Monitoring of Legislation Project. This aim of this project is a systematic analysis of all Government Bills to assess whether they comply with Rule of Law principles. Dr Cormacain was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland, has an LLM in Human Rights from Queens University Belfast, and an LLM from the University…

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Joint written evidence submission to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee on the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill 2022.

Joint written evidence submission to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee on the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill 2022 Executive Summary The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill pursues the legislative objective of ensuring that the UK statute book reflects the legal and political reality of withdrawal from the European Union. In their joint written evidence submission to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee on the REUL (R&R), the Bingham Centre's Maurice…

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Update 4 November 2022

Image: Professor Sir Jeffrey Jowell KC Dear Friends, Our Update is now fortnightly, and much has happened over the past two weeks. The UK has a new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, who promised in his first speech that the Government he leads "will have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level". The breadth of this commitment is welcome, and fulfilling it in practice will require unequivocal adherence to Rule of Law at home and abroad. Wider norms, such as the Nolan…

COVID-19+3

Weekly Update 29 July 2022

Weekly Update 29 July 2022 Dear Friends, This is our last edition before the Weekly Update takes a break for the summer. We wish all Northern Hemisphere readers a respite from the widespread heatwaves, and look forward to bringing you more news from September. On 12 September, the UK's controversial "Bill of Rights" Bill is due to be debated in the House of Commons. The Bingham Centre already has a programme of work examining this Bill. This week, we are pleased to announce a joint project…

CITIZENSHIP+4

Weekly Update 22 July 2022

Weekly Update 22 July 2022 Dear Friends, This week has seen the contest to replace Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative Party take most of the headlines. Voting amongst Tory MPs has reduced the field down to Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Elizabeth Truss, the current Foreign Secretary. As was the case in 2019, the next Prime Minister will now be decided by a subset of the general electorate - members of the ruling Conservative Party. Voting has opened, and…

Modern Slavery+1

Weekly Update 15 July 2022

Weekly Update 15 July 2022 Dear Friends, Parliamentary business slowed down markedly this week, as the Conservative Party leadership contest took centre stage. Disappointingly, two Cabinet ministers withdrew from committee appearances in which they were likely to have been questioned on Rule of Law issues: Home Secretary Priti Patel would have faced questions from the Home Affairs Committee about her controversial policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, while Justice Secretary Dominic…

Modern Slavery+3

Weekly Update 8 July 2022

Weekly Update 08 July 2022 Dear Friends, How will the turmoil at the highest levels of the UK Government this week affect the Rule of Law? A Conservative Party leadership election will soon be held, following scandal-hit Prime Minister Boris Johnson's promise to step down. One of the main topics that leadership candidates will have to address is the restoration of standards in public life, and hopefully this will bring some attention to Rule of Law issues. The former Health Secretary Sajid…

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The Rule of Law and the so-called “Bill of Rights” Bill

The Bingham Centre is monitoring and responding to the Government's plans to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) and replace it with a so-called "Bill of Rights". In December 2020, the Government established an Independent Human Rights Act Review to consider the operation of the HRA and whether any change is needed. The Independent Review's final report was published on 14 December 2021, and mostly recommended maintaining the status quo with no major reforms to the HRA.…

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Weekly Update 01 July 2022

Weekly Update 01 July 2022 Dear Friends, Public debate about the role of courts in protecting human rights has become increasingly bitter in both the UK and the USA in recent weeks. A particular approach to the interpretation of rights guarantees - the "living instrument" doctrine, which judges use to interpret rights in the light of contemporary social norms -has come under fire in both countries. In the UK, the Government argues that it has led the Strasbourg Court to be too generous in…

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Weekly Update 17 June 2022

Weekly Update 17 June 2022 Dear Friends, International law is the subject of one of the eight Rule of Law principles in Tom Bingham's The Rule of Law (2010). Lord Bingham argued that the Rule of Law "requires compliance by the state with its obligations in international law as in national law". He devoted a chapter of his book to this principle, in which the most controversial issue discussed was the 2003 Iraq war, perhaps reflecting the fact that the UK's basis for participating in the…

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Does the Vienna Convention provide a legal off-ramp for unilaterally changing the Northern Ireland Protocol?

Reposted with permission from UK Constitutional Law Association Blog  The Northern Ireland Protocol is part of the Withdrawal Agreement, designed to set out the legal parameters of the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. The Government proposes to introduce legislation to unilaterally change the Protocol. On the face of it, this would appear to place the Government on the highway to a breach of international law. But are there any off-ramps which allow it to avoid this destination?…

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Weekly Update 10 June 2022

Weekly Update 10 June 2022 Dear Friends, Next week, if news reports are correct, the UK Government may publish a Bill authorising unilateral departures from the Northern Ireland Protocol to the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement. This prospect is provoking increasing Rule of Law concerns. Jesse Norman MP, a former Treasury minister in the current Government, wrote that breaching the Protocol would be "almost certainly illegal". This was one of several matters, along with the Prime Minister's…

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Weekly Update 27 May 2022

Weekly Update 27 May 2022 Dear Friends, This week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he took "full responsibility" for a series of parties in Downing Street that had breached COVID-19 regulations and led to him being fined by the Metropolitan police, among a total of 126 fines issued. Yet he did not resign. The "Partygate" scandal is not only about breaches of the criminal law, which some have likened to mere "parking fines", while others have recalled the serious public health purpose…

CITIZENSHIP+2

Weekly Update 13 May 2022

Weekly Update 13 May 2022 Dear Friends, The UK Government's legislative programme for 2022-2023 was announced in the Queen's Speech in Parliament on Tuesday. In accordance with tradition the speech was written by the Government and it was read on this occasion by Prince Charles. It is curious that the speech did not explicitly mention the Government's plans to legislate contrary to the Northern Ireland Protocol to the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement. Perhaps this was a tactful omission which…

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Weekly Update 6 May 2022

Weekly Update 6 May 2022 Dear Friends, This week, elections have taken place for local councils across the UK and for the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly. Whereas the former may have political consequences in the wake of the Prime Minister's Fixed Penalty Notice for breaching COVID-19 restrictions, the latter elections may have more direct consequences for the Rule of Law. The results for the Stormont Assembly may influence the Government's attempts to renegotiate the Protocol on Ireland/Northern…

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Weekly Update 29 April 2022

Weekly Update 29 April 2022 Dear Friends, What is the state of the Rule of Law in Europe today, and what can be done to strengthen it? This question has become ever more important - even for mainstream politicians - in the context of the war in Ukraine, increasingly bitter disputes about democratic "backsliding", and a growing body of regional Rule of Law standards and monitoring mechanisms. For some, the European Rule of Law glass is half-full, while others insist that it is half-empty. This…

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Weekly Update 8 April 2022

Weekly Update 8 April 2022 Dear Friends, On Sunday 3 April, Viktor Orbán's Fidesz party won the Hungarian parliamentary elections, with an increased share of the popular vote (54%). This ensured that it would retain a two-thirds "super-majority" in the legislature, and with it the ability to amend the Hungarian constitution. The victory means a fourth straight term as Prime Minister for Orbán, and the continuation of his project of "illiberal democracy" in opposition to the broad European…

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Weekly Update 1 April 2022

Weekly Update 1 April 2022 Dear Friends, Defending the Rule of Law sometimes means standing up, again and again, for principled solutions in politically sensitive areas. Refugee and asylum law is one such area. Today, the Bingham Centre publishes its fourth report on the Nationality and Borders Bill. We argue that the House of Lords should resist pressure from the House of Commons which has reinserted a number of problematic clauses into the Bill. Among these are clauses that would…

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Weekly Update 18 March 2022

Weekly Update 18 March 2022 Dear Friends, In a development with truly momentous implications for the post-War European architecture designed to uphold the Rule of Law, democracy, and human rights across the continent, Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe this week. Following an extraordinary debate in the Parliamentary Assembly, culminating in an Opinion that Russia should cease to be a member of the organisation set up after World War II "to achieve a greater unity between…

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Weekly Update 11 March 2022

Weekly Update 11 March 2022 Dear Friends, Last week, we reported on an initiative to establish a special tribunal on the crime of aggression in relation to Ukraine. The creation of such a tribunal would enable the international Rule of Law to be upheld by filling the gap which currently exists in the machinery for ensuring that the crime of aggression on the territory of Ukraine does not go unpunished. The establishment of a special criminal tribunal continues to attract support from…

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Weekly Update 25 February 2022

Weekly Update 25 February 2022 Dear Friends, The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which President Putin claims to be justified in international law, is in fact a grave breach of international law, as explained by Professor Andrew Clapham, an expert on the Law of War, in last week's Matrix podcast Russia-Ukraine: What's Law got to do with it?. In a stark repudiation of multilateralism and the rules-based international order, the attack began in the early hours of Thursday while the UN Security…

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Weekly Update 18 February 2022

Weekly Update 18 February 2022 Dear Friends, This week saw a significant milestone for the Rule of Law in the European Union. On Wednesday, the Court of Justice of the EU upheld the validity of the regulation on a general regime of conditionality for the protection of the Union budget, rejecting arguments to the contrary by Hungary and Poland. The judgment means that the European Commission is finally free to adopt guidelines on the use of the regulation. This means the Commission…

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Weekly Update 11 February 2022

Weekly Update 11 February 2022 Dear Friends, Rule of Law arguments continue to make the headlines. In a wide-ranging lecture entitled 'In democracy we trust?' to the Institute of Government on Thursday, the former Prime Minister Sir John Major stated that "The Prime Minister and our present Government not only challenge the law, but also seem to believe that they - and they alone - need not obey the rules". The continuing fallout from the "partygate" revelations for trust in the Government…

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Weekly Update 4 February 2022

Weekly Update 4 February 2022 Dear Friends, This week we learnt from the Gray inquiry update that police are investigating 12 gatherings in or around the UK Prime Minister's offices at 10 Downing Street for possible breaches of Coronavirus regulations. The intense public interest in 'partygate' has shown how much the Rule of Law matters to people. However, threats to the Rule of Law are not always so well publicised or widely understood. In this week's Update, we bring you news of our…

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Nationality and Borders Bill: A Rule of Law Analysis of Clauses 29 and 39

Nationality and Borders Bill: A Rule of Law Analysis of Clauses 29 to 39 Executive Summary This Report analyses Clauses 29 to 39 of the Nationality and Borders Bill from a Rule of Law perspective, to be debated in Committee Stage in the House of Lords on Tuesday 1st and Thursday 3rd of February. It follows our previous report on Clauses 9 and 11 of the Bill.  Clauses 29 to 37 purport to interpret the Refugee Convention. However, the way in which they do so is not in compliance…

PARLIAMENTS

Weekly Update 28 January 2022

Weekly Update 28 January 2022 Dear Friends, "Nobody is above the law. This is important for ensuring the necessary degree of trust between the public and government." These are the words of former Prime Minister Theresa May, as quoted this week by a local newspaper in her Maidenhead constituency. This week, the Metropolitan Police announced a criminal investigation into 'partygate', as the scandal about alleged breaches of Coronavirus regulations by politicians and public officials at…

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Weekly Update 21 January 2022

Weekly Update 21 January 2022 Dear Friends, This week brought good news for the Rule of Law. The House of Lords voted down all but one of the late-stage amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill that were introduced by the government without sufficient opportunity for substantive scrutiny by Parliament. The Bingham Centre recommended such action in response to Rule of Law concerns in our report last week on the Bill. However, despite this good news, this week's Update…

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Weekly Update 17 December 2021

Weekly Update 17 December 2021 Dear Friends, It has been a dramatic week. The UK Government's cavalier attitude to the Rule of Law was partly responsible for the collapse in the Prime Minister's political authority over his own MPs on Tuesday, as almost 100 of them voted against the latest Coronavirus measures, amidst mounting anxiety that the system for making such significant laws in a hurry is no longer fit for purpose. And the growing sense that the Government considers itself above…

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Weekly Update 3 December 2021

Weekly Update 3 December 2021 Dear Friends, This week the Bingham Centre published a set of papers from our year-long research project on data-driven responses to public health emergencies. In a week where the Omicron variant of Coronavirus has dominated news headlines, we summarise the main findings of this project. This Update also brings news of our current work on scrutiny of UK COVID-19 legislation, and a publication on the regulation of artificial intelligence and automated decision-making…

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Weekly Update 26 November 2021

Weekly Update 26 November 2021 Dear Friends, This morning brought news headlines of a significant Coronavirus variant, B.1.1.529, which has been identified in Southern Africa. While this intensifies the public health crisis in that region, already the worst affected on the African continent, the rest of the world is moving swiftly to counter the spread of this variant. The 'red-listing' travel restrictions announced by the UK government have been matched by similar measures taken by many other…

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Weekly Update 5 November 2021

Weekly Update 5 November 2021 Dear Friends, The Rule of Law was once again front and centre in UK news this week, as the Government appeared to seek to avoid the application of the rules for upholding parliamentary standards to one of the governing party's former ministers. One of the central and most easily understood ideas inherent in the Rule of Law is that laws and rules apply to everyone, including the Government. Governments which seek to avoid the rules applying to them demonstrate…

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Modifying Retained EU law in the UK: Increasing Rule of Law Concerns?

This post has been cross-posted  with the kind permission of the RECONNECT blog.  Introduction Despite withdrawal from the EU, the UK remains committed to constitutional values that are also found in Article 2 TEU. Indeed, the EU-UK future relationship is predicated upon both parties upholding fundamental rights and the Rule of Law . In the European Union (Withdrawal) Act (EU(W)A) 2018 , the UK government decided to keep all EU law in force in the UK after Brexit as a…

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Weekly Update 17 September 2021

Weekly Update 17 September 2021 Dear Friends, This is our first Update since the summer break. As the UK prepares to host the COP26 Climate Conference in November, we are mindful that the Rule of Law has a part to play in tackling the planet-wide problems caused by human climate change. Combatting and mitigating the climate crisis requires more than bold ideas. It also requires effective forms of accountability, to ensure that agreed actions are implemented and sustained. In other words,…

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The Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill - A Rule of Law Analysis

Executive Summary This report provides a Rule of Law analysis of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.  To avoid duplication with briefing reports published by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and Liberty, we have not addressed the human rights implications of the Bill in this report, although we note that there are valid concerns around the proportionality and necessity of provisions within the Bill, and whether the restrictions it contains can be said to be prescribed…

PARLIAMENTS

Written evidence submitted to the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee inquiry: The institutional framework of the UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement

This written evidence  has been re-published on the Bingham Centre website with the kind permission of the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee . Executive Summary The TCA Partnership Council (PC) has the power to make legally binding decisions, and to oversee implementation and application. The Specialised Committees have the power to assist in this function. This extends to the development of the TCA in areas such as mutual recognition of professional qualifications,…

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The marginalisation of the House of Commons under Covid has been shocking; a year on, Parliament's role must urgently be restored.

A year ago today, the House of Commons returned to business transformed by Covid. Since March 2020, the public has lived under some of the UK's most restrictive peacetime laws, and to support the economy public money has been spent on a vast scale. Yet parliamentary accountability for, and control over, these decisions has diminished to a degree that would have been unthinkable prior to the pandemic. One year on, with lockdown easing, the restoration of parliamentary control and functioning…

PARLIAMENTS

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill: A Rule of Law Analysis

Executive Summary The Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill restricts prosecutions of service personnel and restricts legal claims against the Ministry of Defence and service personnel. This Report sets out Rule of Law concerns about the contents of the Bill.  The uncomfortable truths behind this Bill are that sometimes service personnel have been the subject of prolonged legal jeopardy, and sometimes service personnel have broken the laws of war.  Under…

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National implementation of human rights: Global survey of State implementation systems and processes

The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, the Universal Rights Group, the University of Bristol and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer are starting a new project to conduct, for the first time, a global survey to understand the systems and processes that States have put in place to implement their international human rights commitments. There is a significant burden on States to report to all relevant human rights bodies and to follow-up and implement their many decisions and recommendations.…

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BIICL Statement on Amendments to the UK Internal Market Bill

BIICL welcomes amendments made to the UK Internal Market Bill The British Institute of International and Comparative Law welcomes amendments made to the UK Internal Market Bill on Monday 9 November by the House of Lords that have removed a proposed power for Ministers to legislate "notwithstanding" international law. The proposed power amounted to a repudiatory breach of international obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement, a treaty which the UK freely entered into earlier this year. Compliance…

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United Kingdom Internal Market Bill: A Rule of Law Analysis of Clauses 42 to 45 (updated for Report Stage)

Executive Summary This Report sets out in brief the Bingham Centre's Rule of Law analysis of clauses 42 to 45 of the UK Internal Market Bill, to inform the consideration of those clauses by the House of Commons at the Bill's Report Stage on Tuesday 29th September. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland candidly admitted, before the Bill's introduction, that these clauses breach international law. However, the Government now claims differently. It seeks to argue that the clauses…

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A Barrier against the new incoming tide? The UK Internal Market Bill and Dispute Resolution under the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland (23 September update)

This piece is cross-posted with the kind permission of the UK Constitutional Law Association blog. The piece originally appeared on 17 September 2020 . This version has been updated in light of developments, and feedback received on the original version. The author is grateful to Steve Peers and Andrew Chapman in this regard. Brexit déjà vu On 14 September 2020, the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill ('UKIMB' or 'the Bill')  passed at Second Reading in the House of Commons. The…

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Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill: A Rule of Law Analysis

Executive Summary The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill will end freedom of movement for EU citizens. Although the broad policy thrust of the Bill is clear, there is a conspicuous lack of detail. This undermines the Rule of Law value of legal certainty. Parliament is being asked to sign a blank cheque, leaving it to the Government to fill in the details later. The inclusion of very broad Henry VIII powers allowing the Secretary of State to make regulations…

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“Social Distancing” of Emergency Legislation during the Covid-19 Pandemic

This piece has been cross-posted with the kind permission of the UKCLA blog . Ordinary legislation is different in its content and method of enactment from emergency legislation. But the risk is that the longer the Covid-19 pandemic continues, the less distinct these two types of law become, and that emergency legislation becomes the new normal. The structural solution proposed to this problem is "social distancing" of emergency legislation - that emergency laws are kept separate and…

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Parliament must legislate on the government’s plans for contact tracing apps

On 4 May the Joint Committee on Human Rights took evidence from the Information Commissioner, academics and the CEO of NHSX  on the risks to the right to privacy (Article 8 ECHR) if a contact tracing app is introduced to track and slow the spread of the coronavirus. This is helpful scrutiny of the government's plans. Yet if the government goes ahead with its proposed contact-tracing application it is essential that the processing of large amounts of personal data by the state, even if…

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Parliament reopening will help the Government defeat COVID-19

Parliament's work in scrutinising Government is never more important than in a crisis. Emergencies sound the hour of the executive , where it plays an essential role in coordinating and delivering urgent support; this has certainly been the case with COVID-19, with Ministers granted additional powers to mobilise a rapid response to the lethal danger posed by the virus. While it is clear that special measures are required to cope with this extraordinary situation, it is essential to the…

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Brexit, Delegated Powers and Delegated Legislation: a Rule of Law Analysis of Parliamentary Scrutiny

Brexit has reopened long running debates over the impact of delegated powers and delegated legislation on Parliament's role in the legislative process. The legislative process in Parliament enables parliamentarians to hold the government to account for proposed changes to the statute book, to amend bills and to decide whether a government bill should be enacted. The government's reliance on delegated powers and delegated legislation to deliver Brexit has raised concerns that parliamentarians…

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Hungary’s Coronavirus legislative response: indeterminate powers for an indeterminate period

The UK's legislative response to Covid-19 has been enacted in great haste, and its impact on the Rule of Law will no doubt continue to be debated in the months to come. However, it is clear that the Coronavirus Act 2020  contains some important Rule of Law safeguards. It has a sunset clause , meaning it will expire after 2 years. It allows Parliament the possibility to review  the Act after 6 months. The Secretary of State must lay reports  before Parliament every 2…

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Coronavirus Bill: A Rule of Law Analysis (Supplementary Report - House of Lords)

Executive Summary The Coronavirus Bill is a response to a genuine public health emergency and contains the most sweeping powers ever taken by the UK Government outside of wartime. There is absolutely no doubt that the Government needs to take swift and bold measures to protect citizens, and that some of these measures will unavoidably impinge upon personal liberties in a drastic way. The role of Parliament in scrutinising these measures is even more important during an emergency. Neither…

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Rule of Law Monitoring of Legislation - Coronavirus Bill

Executive Summary The Coronavirus Bill is a response to a genuine public health emergency and contains the most sweeping powers ever taken by the UK Government outside of wartime. There is absolutely no doubt that the Government needs to take swift and bold measures to protect citizens, and that some of these measures will unavoidably impinge upon personal liberties in a drastic way. The role of Parliament in scrutinising these measures is even more important during an emergency. Neither…

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The EU-UK Future Relationship and the Rule of Law

Executive Summary The EU and the UK have begun negotiating their future relationship. The two sides disagree over the structure of the agreement(s), the legal form of any commitments to maintain common standards, and dispute resolution. Each of these disagreements highlights the unprecedented nature of these negotiations: this is the first time the EU has negotiated an international agreement with a state after it has withdrawn from the EU through Article 50 TEU . The condensed…

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The EU-UK Future Relationship and the Rule of Law

On 9 March 2020 the Bingham Centre hosts the event 'Divergence and alignment: The Rule of Law implications of the future relationship with the EU' . This Comment piece sets out the key themes. The EU and the UK have begun negotiating their future relationship. The two sides disagree  over the structure of the agreement(s), the legal form of any commitments to maintain common standards, and dispute resolution. Each of these disagreements highlights the unprecedented nature of these…

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Tom Caygill and Jack Simson Caird: Constitutional Groundhog Day: The Post-legislative Review and Repeal of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (hereafter the FTPA) removed the Prime Minister's power to unilaterally trigger a general election, extinguished the Monarch's prerogative power to dissolve Parliament and established a system of fixed-term (or semi-fixed) five-year Parliaments. Section 7 of the Act, a government concession following intense scrutiny in the House of Lords, requires the Prime Minister to "make arrangements for a committee to carry out a review of the operation of this Act…

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The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill and the Rule of Law

The general election on 12 December 2019 has fundamentally changed the political dynamic driving the Brexit process. The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (WAB), which will become law before 31 January 2020, has been substantially revised (from the version which was presented in October 2019) to reflect this Government's approach to Brexit. The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law has published a report  that looks in depth at some of the main Rule of Law issues in the WAB. This…

EUROPE+1

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill and the Rule of Law

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (WAB) is a Bill of paramount constitutional importance. The aim of this report is to examine a number of Rule of Law issues raised by the WAB. This report uses the Rule of Law checklist adopted by the Venice Commission in 2016 to inform its analysis of the WAB. These Rule of Law standards provide a guide to the core elements of the Rule of Law, for which consensus can be found amongst the 47 States of the Council of Europe. The Venice…

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A majority government will not guarantee constitutional stability

In UK general elections, the main political parties campaign to convince the electorate that they are deserving of a stable majority in the Commons. A stable majority is a pre-requisite to be able to deliver, via legislation, the policies promised in their manifestos. In this general election, each of the main parties are promising that they would use a majority to enact significant constitutional change to deliver their Brexit policies. In the Brexit context, this has led to a narrative that…

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The ‘Brexit’ Parliament 2017-19

Amidst the sound and fury of the general election campaign, Dr Jack Simson Caird takes a step back to assess how the 'Parliament of two halves' contributed to the Brexit process The 2017 Parliament was brought to an end with the Prime Minister citing parliamentary opposition to Brexit in justification of an early general election. Parliament's role in the Brexit process has been a focal point of political debate since 2016, culminating in the 'People vs Parliament' narrative which is now…

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Why the new Speaker may not always be able to play a straight bat

On 4 November, the House of Commons elected Lindsay Hoyle to serve as Speaker, following the resignation of John Bercow. It has been treated as accepted wisdom that a different approach to the Speakership is called for. However, Bercow has taken decisions about the Commons' handling of Brexit in circumstances where several - or all - of the available choices were potentially controversial. Jack Simson Caird argues that his successor might therefore find that trying to 'play a straight bat'…

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Increasing parliaments' engagement with human rights

Increasing parliaments' engagement with human rights  Event Details Enhancing the role of parliaments in the protection and realisation of human rights is emerging as a crucial way to bridge the "implementation gap" in human rights. Numerous parliaments around the world have started to prioritize human rights and engage with the UN human rights mechanisms,…

PARLIAMENTS

UN General Assembly Side Event on Parliaments and Human Rights

A side event at the UN General Assembly in New York on Increasing Parliaments' Engagement with Human Rights took place on Monday, 14 October 2019.  The side event was co-organized by the AHRC-funded Parliaments, Rule of Law and Human Rights research project led by Murray Hunt, Director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Oxford, and the PI on the project. The side event was attended by approximately 70 people, including ambassadors…

PARLIAMENTS

The Supreme Court and Parliament: The Constitutional Status of Checks and Balances

There have been two competing visions of the constitution battling it out since the Brexit referendum in 2016, which David Howarth described on this blog  as the Whitehall view and the Westminster view. The Whitehall view is that the UK constitution, and the relationship between Parliament and Government in particular, is designed to allow the Government of the day to deliver its promises to the electorate. Parliament's role is to scrutinise how those promises, as well the everyday decisions…

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Process of discovery

What Brexit has taught us so far: with Parliament standing prorogued, the Commons Speaker gives a robust defence of Parliament's role as a check on executive 'malpractice' and pledges all the 'procedural creativity' necessary. On 12 September 2019, John Bercow MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons, delivered the Annual Bingham Lecture , entitled 'Process of Discovery: what Brexit has taught us (so far) about Parliament, Politics and the UK Constitution' to a packed Middle Temple Hall.…

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The Benn-Burt Extension Act: A roadblock to a No-deal Brexit?

Introduction: Extension and the Rule of Law On 9 September, the EU (Withdrawal) (No.2) Act 2019   ('Benn-Burt Extension Act') received Royal Assent. The Benn-Burt Extension Act imposes a statutory duty upon the Prime Minister (if the relevant conditions are met) to request and accept an extension of the withdrawal negotiating period under Article 50(3) TEU. However, the Prime Minister has repeatedly stated  that he will not request such an extension, ostensibly in clear conflict…

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Weekly Update

On 12 September, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP gave the Sixth Annual Bingham Lecture in Middle Temple Hall. The Speaker's Lecture was titled: 'Process of Discovery: What Brexit has taught us (so far) about Parliament, Politics and the UK Constitution'. The Speaker's lecture was live streamed and footage is available here . The lecture was covered by the Guardian, ITV news, the BBC, the Huffington Post and the Financial Times. The Speaker's lecture…

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Sixth Annual Bingham Lecture

On 12 September, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP gave the Sixth Annual Bingham Lecture in Middle Temple Hall. The Speaker's Lecture was titled: 'Process of Discovery: What Brexit has taught us (so far) about Parliament, Politics and the UK Constitution'. The Speaker's lecture was live streamed and footage will be available on our website in due course. The lecture was covered by the Guardian , ITV news , the BBC , the Huffington Post  and the…

EUROPE+2

Brexit and the UK Political and Constitutional Crisis: Prorogation and the Case for Constitutional Reform

The Government's decision to prorogue Parliament on 9 September (the Brexit Prorogation) has exposed an uncomfortable truth: the UK constitution does not provide strong legal limits on some of the executive's most constitutionally significant powers. The legality of the government's decision to request a prorogation will be determined by the Supreme Court on 19 September. Whether or not the Supreme Court decides that the government's decision was unlawful, the Brexit prorogation has highlighted…

EUROPE+1

In a Democracy the Rule of Law means Parliament is supreme over the Executive

Murray Hunt considers why the Rule of Law is relevant to the current constitutional confrontation between the UK Government and Parliament Whenever the political temperature rises dramatically, invocation of the Rule of Law is seldom far behind. It is frequently enlisted by both sides in a political dispute, as a high-minded weapon to deploy on political opponents. All too often it is used in a rhetorical way, to lend extra weight to a political argument that the other side are doing something…

EUROPE+2

The Brexit Prorogation: an unsustainable constitutional confrontation

Jack Simson Caird explains the strategic logic of the decision to prorogue Parliament. He writes that the government seems to be seeking confrontation with Parliament not just over Brexit, but over different visions of the constitution and democracy. So, unlike May's Government, Johnson's is willing to deploy all the means at its disposal in order to realise its visions. The government's decision to prorogue Parliament between 9-12 September to 14 October is based on overlapping strategic…

EUROPE+1

Prime Minister announces new Modern Slavery Centre to be led by the Bingham Centre

Today the Prime Minister announced an ambitious new Policy and Evidence Centre on Modern Slavery to be led by the Bingham Centre The Prime Minister has today announced the investment of £10million of public funding from UK Research and Innovation's Strategic Priorities Fund to create an ambitious new Policy and Evidence Centre on Modern Slavery and Human Rights. The Centre's job will be to bring about a step change in our understanding of modern slavery and to transform the effectiveness…

GOVERNMENT+1

Parliament must act quickly to exert influence if it wishes to prevent a ‘no deal’ Brexit

In four months' time, the extension to the Article 50 period agreed in April will expire. The UK will have a new Prime Minister by then, although it remains unclear what position they will take if the Commons continues to refuse to approve the Withdrawal Agreement. Jack Simson Caird analyses the legal and political mechanisms available should parliament seek to prevent the next Prime Minister taking the UK out of the EU without a deal. Boris Johnson has said that if he is the next Prime Minister…

EUROPE+1

APPG on the Rule of Law: Can Parliament stop a no deal Brexit?

APPG on the rule of Law: Can parliament stop a no deal Brexit? A recent Institute for Government comment arguing that Parliament would not be able to stop a Prime Minister determined to deliver no deal has provoked significant debate. This roundtable is being convened to debate the argument advanced in the comment piece and to consider the possible steps that Parliament could take to prevent a no deal exit. Chair Dominic Grieve QC MP, Chair of the APPG on the Rule of Law…

EUROPE+1

APPG on the Rule of Law: Parliament, Brexit and the Rule of Law

'Brexit, Parliament and The Rule of Law: extending Article 50 and implementing the Withdrawal Agreement' '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. Chair Dominic Grieve QC MP, Chair of the APPG on the Rule of Law Speakers Professor Kenneth Armstrong, Professor of European Law at the University…

EUROPE+1

The Bercow Bombshell: Political Constitutionalism in Action

This week, like the last and probably the next, the constitutional and political drama in the Brexit process reached new heights. The week began with a statement  from the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow MP. The Speaker took many by surprise by invoking a precedent that has existed since 1604: that once the Commons has rejected a motion or Bill, the proposition in question should not be re-introduced in the same parliamentary session. The Speaker's intervention, both in terms…

PARLIAMENTS

MPs’ powers of persuasion are shaping the Brexit endgame

This week has been a momentous one for the Brexit endgame in the Commons. There is a growing sense of frustration and bewilderment at the lack of progress being made by MPs. However, it is worth taking a step back and seeing this week's events in the wider context of the relationship between the government and the Commons which has been evolving and adapting to the unique circumstances of Brexit. In a UK in a Changing Europe and Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law report published this week ,…

EUROPE+1

The House of Commons’ Last Chance at Taking Back Control?

On Wednesday 27 February, MPs will have another opportunity to debate an amendable motion on the Government's approach to Brexit. The debate on Wednesday is likely to focus on the plan put forward by Yvette Cooper MP (Labour) and Oliver Letwin MP (Conservative). They want MPs to have a legally binding say on whether the Prime Minister seeks an extension to Article 50's two-year negotiating period. An amendment on Wednesday (if passed) would make time for legislation to achieve this. This post…

EUROPE+1

For Rule of Law in the US, 2019 Brings New Hope

Published in The Hill  on 28 December 2018 For those concerned about the rule of law in the United States, the last two years have been a steady drip - accelerating at times to a full-blown torrent - of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. 2017 was tough, but 2018 was tougher. The year included the manufacture and release (against adamant objections from the intel community) of the infamous "Nunes" memo. It included the Helsinki summit between presidents Trump and Putin. It included…

PARLIAMENTS

The Commons’ verdict delayed: a decisive shift in the battle for control of the Brexit Endgame?

Theresa May's delay of the meaningful vote was a game-changing decision in the contest between the Commons and the Government for control of the Brexit process. This decision - ostensibly to address the concerns of MPs and enable further legal clarifications from the EU - might not appear that significant. In principle, the delay simply ensures MPs have all the information they need to make an informed choice. However, this underplays the strategic importance of the delay. The Government's…

EUROPE+1

Getting Rights Right: Human Rights and the Scottish Parliament

In this Report the human rights committee of the Scottish Parliament considered how the Parliament could be a better guarantor of human rights in Scotland. The Report drew heavily on the draft UN Principles on Parliaments and Human Rights to make a number of recommendations designed to improve parliamentary scrutiny of legislation for human rights compatibility in Scotland as well as to improve public participation in discussion and debate of human rights issues in the Parliament. The…

PARLIAMENTS

The House of Commons and the Brexit Endgame: what can the Commons achieve before exit day?

This was originally published in the UK in a Changing Europe blog  on 23 November 2018, republished here with kind permission. Amid all the noise around leadership challenges and a People's Vote, it is easy to forget that the role of the House of Commons in the Brexit Endgame is focused on two core tasks: Approving the Withdrawal Agreement and the Framework on the Future Relationship (the meaningful vote); and Turning the Withdrawal Agreement into domestic law through the EU (Withdrawal…

EUROPE+1

Taking Back Control: Brexit, Parliament and the Rule of Law

Over the next six months of the Brexit process, the UK Parliament will make a number of decisions that will have a profound impact on the UK's constitution and its legal systems. In a Bingham Centre for the Rule Law Report published this week, The Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration: A Preliminary Rule of Law Analysis , we argue that the next six months represents a major test for the Rule of Law in the UK. The Rule of Law does not itself provide answers to the question…

EUROPE+1

Contribution of parliaments to the work of the Human Rights Council and its universal periodic review

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights drew up a set of draft Principles to guide parliaments seeking to build their capacity to engage with human rights and Rule of Law issues, based on an extensive survey of best practice in parliaments around the world. In particular, the draft Principles provide detailed guidance about how to establish and operate a parliamentary human rights committee. The draft Principles draw extensively on an earlier draft prepared by the Director…

PARLIAMENTS

The Data Protection Bill: What Do Rule of Law Principles Mean for AI and Data Processing? Briefing Note

The Data Protection Bill: What Do Rule of Law Principles Mean for AI and Data Processing? The All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Rule of Law met to consider the Rule of Law implications of the Data Protection Act 2018 before its second reading in the House of Commons. Senior Policy Adviser on Mainstreaming the Rule of Law in Parliament, Swee Leng Harris, wrote this briefing paper for the meeting with support from Michael Abiodun Olatokun. A Framework for Data Processing The Centre asked…

DIGITAL AGE+1

Global developments in the role of parliaments in the protection and promotion of human rights and the rule of law: An emerging consensus – 2018 update

This Report updates the earlier global survey, reviewing developments since the earlier survey was concluded. The Update found that the emerging consensus identified in the earlier Report had continued to develop and was now even more firmly established at regional and international level. The move towards increased parliamentary engagement was gathering momentum both at regional level and in international organisations such as the UN. Noting the endorsement of the UN Secretary-General…

PARLIAMENTS

The Rule of Law in Parliament: A Review of the 2015-2016 Session

This study built on the Bingham Centre's first Rule of Law in Parliament report by examining the use of the Rule of Law as point of reference in Parliament in the next year's session (2015-2016). The findings demonstrate continuity of certain trends, but also some significant new developments. Compared with the previous period, the House of Commons overtook the House of Lords in supplying a clear majority of the 653 distinct references to the Rule of Law that were located and analysed.…

PARLIAMENTS

Global developments in the role of parliaments in the protection and promotion of human rights and the rule of law: An Emerging Consensus

This Report presents the findings of a worldwide survey of the most significant global developments in the role of parliaments in the protection and promotion of human rights and the Rule of Law. Drawing together developments at the international and regional level, the Report demonstrates that there is a growing international consensus about the importance of the role of parliaments in this respect, and growing activity towards achieving this. It found a distinct global trend of a…

PARLIAMENTS

The Rule of Law in Parliament: A Review of Sessions 2013-2014 and 2014-2015

The Rule of Law has practical implications for almost every aspect of government and parliamentary decision-making and so parliamentarians consider Rule of Law issues frequently. Every decision to grant a discretion to a Minister or bureaucrat in an Act of Parliament engages the Rule of Law, questions of access to the legal system such as fees, legal aid and legal process are Rule of Law issues, and holding the government to account can be an example of applying the Rule of Law. Most…

PARLIAMENTS
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