Brexit, Brexit, yet more Brexit, IICSA soldiers on – and the Joint Committee on Human Rights turns a beady eye on suspending the ECHR in times of conflict
Robert Craig, of the LSE Law School, has produced an extraordinarily helpful summary of the proceedings before the UKSC in Miller v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union:
- Day 1: Initial Statement and the Attorney General.
- Day 2: James Eadie QC, the Advocate General for Scotland, the Attorney General for Northern Ireland and Lord Pannick QC.
- Day 3: Lord Pannick QC, Dominic Chambers QC, David Scoffield, Ronan Lavery QC and the Lord Advocate.
- Day 4: the Lord Advocate, Richard Gordon QC, Helen Mountfield QC, Manjit Gill QC, Patrick Green QC, Advocate-General for Scotland and James Eadie QC.
Brexit – II
Whilst government continues to struggle with the meaning of “Brexit”, the word has now entered the Oxford English Dictionary; the OED defines Brexit as: “the (proposed) withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, and the political process associated with it” and continues: “Sometimes used specifically with reference to the referendum held in the UK on 23rd June 2016, in which a majority of voters favoured withdrawal from the EU.”
Seems clear enough to us; so “Brexit means Brexit” then? And did the Prime Minister realise that “red, white and blue” are also the colours of France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – just for a start.
Brexit: House of Lords
Each day last week, the House of Lords European Committee published a report from one of its six sub-committees, focusing on key issues that will arise in the forthcoming negotiations on Brexit. Our Monday post was updated with links to the Committee’s Reports as they were became available; a summary of these is published here.
Brexit: Crown Dependencies
On 15 December the House of Lords launched a short inquiry on the Crown Dependencies – Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. The Crown Dependencies are not part of the UK, nor are they included in the UK’s membership of the EU. However, the Islands have a limited relationship with the EU that is set out in Protocol 3 to the UK’s Act of Accession. As such, Brexit is set to bring an end to the Islands’ relationship with the EU, at least in its current form. On Tuesday 20 December the Committee will hear evidence from the Islands’ three Chief Ministers, and further evidence will be taken in early 2017. Although the Committee is not issuing a formal Call for Evidence, it welcomes any submissions on the above issues and any other related matters of interest.
English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review: call for evidence
The English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review, under the Chairmanship of Bernard Taylor, was launched by the Government in March 2016. Its terms of reference are as follows:
“Churches and cathedrals define many of our cities, towns and villages. We want to open up these buildings for wider community, cultural and heritage use. There are many examples of good practice up and down the land. The challenge is to share good practice and enable it to be spread whilst at the same time ensuring sustainable maintenance and funding of these exceptional buildings.”
The Review has now issued an on-line call for evidence. The closing date for submissions is 31 January 2017. The Review has focused, hitherto, on Church of England churches. Although cathedrals are included in the scope of the Review, they are not specifically referenced in the survey: its primary area of focus is on parish churches. The Review is alert to the fact that much of what is learned and any recommendations made could also be relevant to other places of worship – but the questionnaire concentrates on the C of E.
IICSA: the latest
As we noted, on 16 December the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse published a review of its work. The Review refocuses the Inquiry and lays out a detailed schedule of work for 2017. Crucially, all thirteen existing investigations will continue.
Blasphemy in Scotland
Humanist Society Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to repeal the law against blasphemy. It was last invoked in 1843 to convict Edinburgh bookseller Thomas Paterson of selling blasphemous literature, for which he was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment.
We confess to having been totally unaware that blasphemy was still a crime in Scotland.
Church Representation Rules 2017
Church House Publishing has published a new edition of the Church Representation Rules of the Church of England – “Full of essential information, this 2017 edition has been extensively and fully updated to reflect the most recent changes: the 2009 Statutory Instrument and the 2009 update to the Code of Recommended Practice to the Pastoral Measure 1983”. In addition to this hard copy costing £9.99, the Church Representation Rules 2017 are available via the CofE website, which notes that the changes made in July 2014 “will be included soon”. In relation to the changes still to be incorporated on the CofE website, see the comments to this post by Peter Owen and David Lamming, and those on the Thinking Anglicans post Church Representation Rules 2017 on 12 December.
The Church Representation Rules form Schedule 3 to the Synodical Government Measure 1969, as amended by subsequent Church Representation Rules (Amendment) Resolutions. The 1969 Measure and the amendments are available at legislation.gov.uk, although not all have been consolidated.
Human rights in time of war
The Joint Committee on Human Rights is inviting views on the Government’s proposal, announced on 10 October, to suspend the application of the European Convention on Human Rights in times of armed conflict. The Government has claimed that the legal system is being abused by people relying on human rights laws, allowing ‘false charges’ to be levelled against troops ‘on an industrial scale’. The Government has also criticised judgments that have applied human rights laws to the UK’s armed forces acting overseas.
The JCHR inquiry is looking for views on the following:
- What evidence is there to support the Government’s view that the legal system is being ‘abused to level false charges against our troops on an industrial scale’?
- What evidence supports the Government’s view that the extraterritorial application of the Convention is undermining the armed forces’ operational effectiveness?
- Would the requirements of Article 15 ECHR (such as the requirement that derogation measures be ‘strictly required by the exigencies of the situation’) be satisfied in the circumstances in which the Government intends to derogate?
- Are there alternatives to derogation which would achieve the Government’s aim of protecting the army against unfounded legal claims?
- Are there wider implications for the UK derogating from the Convention during overseas armed conflict (such as effects on other countries or on the European system for the collective enforcement of human rights)?
- Is it appropriate for the Ministry of Defence to have lead responsibility for a policy the purpose of which is to protect the Ministry of Defence from legal claims?
Interested groups and individuals can send in written submissions (up to 3,000 words) to the JCHR here. The deadline for submissions is 31 March 2017. Guidance for writing submissions is available here. [Thanks to RightsInfo.]
Charities and disputed legacies
A case in the UKSC that didn’t get a lot of media coverage last week (though there was a long background piece in the Mail) was Ilott v The Blue Cross and Ors, in which the oral arguments have just concluded. Judgment will be in 2017.
The issues in the appeal are quite narrow – and, incidentally, the Scots law of succession is different in any case – but it raises the broader issue of the extent to which a testator in England or Wales has carte blanche in the disposition of his or her estate. It also raises once more the question of how far charity trustees are obliged to resist challenges to wills of which they are beneficiaries. It’s a difficult judgment for trustees to make: if they lose, they tend to get flamed in the media.
Deanery of Jersey
The Diocese of Canterbury issued the following statement on Monday:
“The Very Revd Robert Key
… The Very Reverend Robert Key, Dean of the Bailiwick of Jersey, has received Her Majesty’s permission allowing him to relinquish his appointment as Dean on 28 February 2017.
Dean Bob will become part of the Archbishops’ Evangelism Task Group helping as an advocate between Cathedrals and larger churches for the beacon events as part of the national initiative ‘Thy Kingdom Come 2017.’ He will also be taking up an invitation from the Bishop of Bath & Wells to be part of the team taking forward that Diocese’s new strategy for mission and evangelism”.
York Bell Ringers
This week, the President Central Council of Church Bell Ringers (CCCBR) and York Minster have separately published statements on the continued absence of bell ringing since October. The media have reported that the ringers of Leeds Minster (and others) have turned down an invitation to ring York Minster’s bells at its Christmas services, in what was said to be an “act of solidarity” with York’s ringers. However, the communication from the Minster places the focus firmly on safeguarding issues.
- David Ainsworth, Civil Society: Why have charities breached data protection law so badly?: inclines towards cock-up rather than conspiracy: “It appears that the charity sector has never really understood the requirements of the Data Protection Act, even though it dates back to 1998” – but that is no excuse at all.
- Equality and Human Rights Commission: Protecting human rights: key challenges for the UK’s third Universal Periodic Review: argues that there has been “a worrying lack of progress” on human rights issues, in advance of next year’s UN Human Rights Council review.
- David Allen Green, Financial Times: Five things we learnt from the Supreme Court Article 50 hearing: “Whereas constitutional law cases usually deal with one topic — say, the powers of Parliament or the relationships between state and citizen — this case contained almost every constitutional law topic you could think of.”
- Lee Gatiss, Church Society: Where next on same-sex marriage? “Lee Gatiss takes a look at the same-sex marriage debate in the Church of England, and considers some of the ways forward”.
- Robert Hunt, Patheos: Banning the Burqa: the New Exile: “It isn’t burqas that need to be banned. It’s bigots, although on consideration even they too are better in the public square than banished from it.”
- Michael Peppard, Commonweal: Circumcision and Religious Liberty in Northern Europe: argues that the US sees the issue as a matter of Jewish or Muslim law and religious liberty, while opponents in northern Europe view it as an affront to European national law: we are not sure it’s as simple as that.
- Frances Raday, Religion and the Public Sphere: Freedom from religion is fundamental to the human rights system but it is under threat: argues that current debates regarding state and religion should be determined on the basis of their impact on human rights, without deference to religious norms or sentiments.
A Christmas quiz from a slightly unlikely source: the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. Sing, choirs of drafters…
…our End of Year quiz is completed, and will be posted next week.