This bulletin for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Rule of Law has three sections: Rule of Law News and Events, APPG Meetings, and Current Awareness, which provides some background reading on topics that raise rule of law issues.

Rule of Law News and Events

New Blog: Administrative Law in the Common Law World
A new blog has been launched on Administrative Law in the Common Law World. The blog aims to connect interested scholars and contribute to comparative administrative law, and already includes analysis from Cambridge, the National University of Singapore, and Yale.

New Report: The Rule of Law in Parliament: A Review of the 2015-16 Session
On 17 March, The Bingham Centre released a briefing on The Rule of Law in Parliament in 2015 – 2016, which outlines key findings from its study of how MPs and Peers engaged with the rule of law in the 2015-16 parliamentary session.  Key findings include that few parliamentarians regularly use the term ‘rule of law’ in parliamentary proceedings; that references to the rule of law are often in foreign affairs matters, rather than in domestic matters; and that members of the Executive refer to the rule of law more frequently than other parliamentarians and use it to defend Government policies.

Prisons and Courts Bill 2016-17
The Prisons and Courts Bill 2016-17 received its second reading in the House of Commons on 20 March.  The Explanatory Notes for the Bill state that the purpose of the Bill includes ‘improving efficiency and services for users in courts and tribunals’. The Bill’s reforms include increased use of technology in the criminal courts with more hearings and decisions to be conducted in writing, including electronically, or virtually through audio and video links.  However, there are concerns about the effect of the Bill’s proposals on access to justice, including from the Prison Reform Trust and Transform Justice.

Event: The Judiciary and the Rule of Law
The Annual Bingham Lecture
Chair – The Rt Hon the Lord Philips of Worth Matravers KG, PC; Speaker – Lord Judge, former Chief Justice of England and Wales; Respondent – Dame Sian Elias, Chief Justice of New Zealand and Bingham Centre Patron
Wednesday 3 May 2017 18:00
Gray's Inn, 8 South Square, London WC1R 5ET

More information

APPG Meetings

Next Meeting
There will be an APPG on the Rule of Law meeting on Monday 27 March at 4:30 pm to discuss the role of the UN Universal Periodic Review in assessing the UK’s human rights record, and that of other countries, and the role Parliamentarians can play in this process, both from a domestic and international perspective.
Speakers include:
  • Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director, United Nations Association – UK
  • Scott McPherson, Director of Judicial, Rights and International Directorate, Ministry of Justice
  • Melanie Field, Executive Director for Strategy and Policy, Equality and Human Rights Commission
The meeting will be held in co-convened with the APPG on UN, All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group and the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, in conjunction with the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Current Awareness

The current awareness topics in this bulletin are:

Brexit and the Rule of Law

House of Lords Constitution Committee, ‘The ‘Great Repeal Bill’ and delegated powers’ (7 March 2017)
The Committee’s Report sets out recommendations for limiting the constitutional risks posed by the Great Repeal Bill including general provisions in the Bill to the effect that the delegated powers granted by the Bill should be used only:
  • so far as necessary to adapt the body of EU law to fit the UK’s domestic legal framework; and
  • so far as necessary to implement the result of the UK’s negotiations with the EU.
The Report also recommends processes and mechanisms for parliamentary scrutiny of secondary legislation laid under the Bill.   
See also

Sophie Jamieson, ‘'Seven new Brexit bills' must be passed after Article 50 is triggered, leaked Whitehall documents say’, The Telegraph (14 March 2017)
There are reports of leaked government documents indicating that seven new bills will be required for areas where transposition of the law is too substantial to be included in the Great Repeal Bill.  A further six bills may also be needed for new arrangements post-exit from the EU.

House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, ‘Article 50 negotiations: Implications of ‘no deal’’, (12 March 2017)
The Committee’s report looks at the possibility of no deal being achieved in the UK’s negotiations with the EU on exit, and highlights key implications of this possibility including:
  • Uncertainty for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU,
  • The ‘regulatory gap’ with regard to the some 33 EU regulatory and other bodies covering sectors as varied as aviation, fisheries, food safety, medicines, law enforcement and financial services,
  • Uncertainty for UK participation in the EU’s common foreign and security policy, and
  • The sudden return of a ‘hard’ customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Dr Charles Tannock MEP, ‘BREXIT: The Security Dimension’, (February 2017)
Dr Tannock’s report highlights ‘the priorities and the various options that the UK can consider to mitigate the potential damage to foreign and security policy from Brexit.’  The report covers EU level agreements including on Europol, Eurojust, European Arrest Warrant, Passenger Name Record, as well as bilateral/non-EU agreements concerning the UK-Irish border.

House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee, ‘Brexit: justice for families, individuals and businesses?’ (20 March 2017)
The Report examines the consequences of exit from the EU for civil justice cooperation under three EU Regulations, the so-called Brussels regime, which ‘provide certainty, predictability and clarity’ in civil legal disputes, regulating ‘a pan-European system of civil justice cooperation’.

Joe Tomlinson, ‘The Individual in the Reformation of the UK's Bureaucratic State—Administrative Justice, Brexit, and Human Rights’ (17 March 2017)
Tomlinson’s working paper argues that Brexit—whatever form the final ‘agreement’ takes—will entail administrative branch reform, that there will be a greater risk to the individual in terms of fairness during this post-Brexit administrative reform, and that there is therefore cause for practical consideration to be given to how these risks may be reduced.

Northern Ireland

‘Northern Ireland and ‘Brexit’: the European Economic Area Option’ (March 2017)
Specialists and experts in EU legal and political affairs have produced a paper that looks at the possibility of Northern Ireland’s becoming a member of the European Economic Area as a means of maintaining much of the economic status quo for Northern Ireland after exit from the EU.

Iain McDowell, ‘Assembly election: Parties' red lines in Stormont talks’, BBC News (16 March 2017)
The main political parties in Northern Ireland are in negotiations to form government in accordance with the devolved nation’s power-sharing arrangement. The Democratic Unionist Party and Ulster Unionist Party are both concerned about legacy matters from the Troubles, the former believing that investigations have been unduly focused on the army and the latter questioning whether the Irish government’s disclosure of sensitive information has been sufficient. Priorities for Sinn Féin include legislation to give the Irish language official status, a Northern Ireland bill of rights, and funding for inquests into Troubles deaths, while the Social Democratic Labour Party is focused on Brexit. 

Vincent Kearney, ‘Troubles legacy cases bias disputed by figures’, BBC News (2 February 2017)
Police Service of Northern Ireland figures show that 30% of the workload for legacy investigations concern killings by the Army.  According to the BBC, ‘police legacy branch will re-investigate 1,118 deaths not previously reviewed or completed by the now defunct Historical Enquiries Team (HET). Of those killings, 530 were carried out by republicans, 271 by loyalists and 354 by the security forces.’  Of the 1,615 completed investigations by the HET, 32 were attributed to the army, while 1,038 were attributed to republicans and 536 to loyalists.
See also
Robbie Meredith, ‘Irish language act a necessity, says Council of Europe’, BBC News (9 March 2017)
Fourth Opinion on the UK by the Council of Europe Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for National Minorities has recommended the adoption of legislation for the Irish language.

Scotland Indyref2
Aileen McHarg, ‘Indyref2: Who Decides?’, Scottish Constitutional Futures Forum (15 March 2017)
McHarg analyses the questions of who has the legal power to authorise an independence referendum, and whether the Scots have a constitutional right to secede, neither of which has a clear answer.

Ewan Smith and Alison Young, ‘That’s how it worked in 2014, and how it would have to work again’, UK Constitutional Law Association Blog (15 March 2017)
Smith and Young argue that it is possible that the Scottish Parliament and Scottish government may have the power to call a referendum, including through comparative analysis with the position for Northern Ireland.

Richard G Whitman, ‘Theresa May’s ‘Two Union’ Problem: Scotland and Article 50’, Chatham House (14 March 2017)
Whitman discusses the issues raised by negotiations over the Union of the UK in parallel with negotiations over the UK’s exit from the EU, drawing on a longer
Chatham House Paper that observed that ‘the infrastructure that is in place for the different parts of the UK – the devolved administrations who negotiate with London – is really inadequate for the task at hand.’

Stephen Tierney, ‘A Second Independence Referendum in Scotland: The Legal Issues’, UK Constitutional Law Association Blog (13 March 2017)
Tierney looks at whether the Scottish Parliament can hold a referendum without the consent of Westminster, whether the UK Parliament will grant an order for a referendum, and which institutions (Scottish or UK) have decision making power over the rules for a referendum.
See also:
About the APPG on the Rule of Law
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Rule of Law aims to promote parliamentary and public discussion on the rule of law as a practical concept. It is co-chaired by The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP and Lord Pannick QC. Secretariat support is provided by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law with funding from The Legal Education Foundation.
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For enquiries concerning the APPG on the Rule of Law, please contact Swee Leng Harris at the Bingham Centre:
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Swee Leng Harris
Coordinator of the APPG on the Rule of Law Secretariat
Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law
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