15 October 2020
The United Kingdom Internal Market Bill is due for second reading in the House of Lords on 19 October 2020. It is not an understatement to say that the Bill contains provisions which represent one of the most egregious assaults on the Rule of Law in recent times, nor is it an understatement to say that there is a remarkable hostility to it from across the political spectrum, and across the Brexit divide.. It has also united the UK’s legal profession against it. In Reports for the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law here and here we pointed out how this violation of international law breaches the Rule of Law. I have also previously argued that the Bill contains an unacceptable breach of domestic law. The former Attorney General Dominic Grieve argued that the Bill contained an unacceptable ouster clause. I wish now to hone that argument by characterising what is now clause 47 of the Bill as containing not just a simple ouster clause, but the mother of all ouster clauses.
Brief explanation / history of ouster clauses
An ouster clause is a provision in primary legislation which ousts the jurisdiction of the courts. It deems that provision (or decisions made under or in accordance with that provision) as not susceptible to judicial challenge. An ouster clause makes the subject matter of the clause non-justiciable, putting it outside or beyond the reach of the courts.
Parliament and the courts have played a game of cat and mouse over ouster clauses for at least the last 70 years.
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