Archive for October 8th, 2010

Lawcast168:  Carl Gardner on “Monkeying with national sovereignty”

Today I am talking to Carl Gardner, ex government lawyer and author of the Head of  Legal blog, about the extraordinary idea being put forward by Foreign Secretary William Hague that we need to enshrine Parliamentary Sovereignty in our law.  There are many dangers in doing so.  There could well be *unintended consequences* and Carl Gardner says that the drafting of this legislation will need especial care.

For my part, I think it is important that we look at the law behind political statements closely.  Carl did it in the article and in the podcast explained the position fully. The podcast is entirely suitable for lawyers and non-lawyers – and politicians may find it of some value?

Monkeying with national sovereignty

William Hague’s national sovereignty clause is a pointless, perilous sop to Eurosceptics

Carl Gardner wrote an excellent piece in The Guardian recently – and I just had to do a podcast with him.  I hope you enjoy it.

Listen to the podcast

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I do not have any particular problem with Sadiq Khan MP being  promoted to the Shadow Lord Chancellor position for being a driving force behind Ed Miliband’s accession to the imperial Labour throne – but I do think, as a lawyer, and now shadowing one of the great offices of State, that he may need to brush up on his legal skills and, in particular, statutory interpretation.

MPs’ expenses: Sadiq Khan misused Commons’ envelopes (!)

The Telegraph reports, (Slavering?): “Following a formal sleaze inquiry, the Labour MP for Tooting was found to have broken the rules by using Parliamentary stationery during the general election. Under strict rules designed to prevent incumbents having an advantage over challengers from other parties, MPs may not use postage-paid Commons’ envelopes at election time. Mr Khan said that he used the stationery only to let his constituents know that he was unable to act on their behalf during the campaign. Around 500 received the letters. But he agreed to apologise to the House and repay the cost of the mail-out, £173.36, meaning he was spared a full Commons’ standards ruling. The deal – brokered by John Lyon, the Commissioner for Standards – would have remained secret had Mr Khan not made it public on his official website.

This is by no means one of the great ‘expenses revelations of all time’….. but I did like the bit where Khan stated…“The Parliamentary Commissioner reached a slightly different interpretation of the rules, which I respect.”

I’m not sure any of this Shadow Cabinet stuff actually means that much.  Labour have come up with a plan in opposition (described as ‘Bonkers’ by former Lord Chancellor Jack Straw) to elect members of the Shadow Cabinet.  The Great Leader is then able to chuck out the portfolios to  people in this pool. Should Labour return to power, the Prime Minister doesn’t have to appoint from this elected pool.  He or she may choose as they wish.  Jack Straw observed, drily, that some of the new shadows appointed may be severely disappointed when it the time comes for a return to government.

I am, however, looking forward to Ed Balls giving Theresa May a hard time.  Whatever one may think of Balls, he is a fairly fearless debater – so it could be amusing as well as interesting.  Mr Khan may well find the old bruiser Ken Clarke QC, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice,  quite a handful to oppose!

Roll on Friday has word of… Second law firm suffers cyber-attack over copyright claims

After the galactic embarrassment suffered by ACS:Law last week, a second law firm has had its website attacked by irate file sharers.

London firm Gallant Macmillan plies the same greasy trade as ACS:Law – firing out countless letters demanding cash from individuals who may or may not have shared files illegally. It acts for the Ministry of Sound, and over the weekend the websites of both the firm and its client crashed after suffering distributed denial of service attacks.

However, this isn’t Gallant Macmillan’s only problem – it is also engaged in a fight with BT, which is resisting the firm’s attempt to recover details of its customers. BT has just been granted an adjournment, and a spokesman said that “the incident involving the ACS:Law data leak has further damaged people’s confidence in the current process. We’re pleased that the court has agreed to an adjournment so that our concerns can be examined“.

Things are certainly hotting up for lawyers who are in this less than pleasant game.

Patrick Wintour, political editor of the Guardian writes… “Sadiq Khan, one of Ed Miliband’s first supporters and a barrister, has been appointed shadow justice secretary. His appointment will signal a more liberal view on counter-terrorism issues.”

Guido Fawkes is less complimentary….

5 Things You Should Know About the Shadow Justice Secretary



Migrationwatch drops Sally Bercow libel threat

The Lawyer reports: Migrationwatch has dropped its libel complaint against political commentator Sally Bercow less than a week after she instructed lawyers to defend the threatened action.

Lawyer David Allen Green, author of the Jack of kent blog – rides to the rescue and does it again.  He published the correspondence on his blog.

Good effort – and not wishing to diminish the work done by Green, this case would not have caused him (I suspect)  to even break into a mild sweat.  It seemed to me, and many other lawyers and commentators, that the Migration Watch threats were unlikely to succeed before the court.  However – people who are not specialists in the law don’t know that, so Sally Bercow was facing the very real prospect of misery and expensive litigation until David Allen Green stepped in and sorted it.   There are, however, dangers in publicising legal cases on twitter.  I think it was justified in the Joke Trial issue and here – but it would  be unfortunate indeed if Twitter was abused by lawyers.  We wouldn’t want Twitter to become a ‘court of public opinion’…I prefer litigation to be dealt with in court…assuming, of course, that we have any left after the Spending Review scheduled for 20th October.

The Supreme Court’s future …is still under review!

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The English Law of Privacy

Hugh Tomlinson QC of the The UKSC blog reports: “On 25 August 2010 Supreme Court Justice Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe gave a speech to Anglo-Australasian Lawyers Society at Owen Dixon Chambers, Melbourne on the subject of privacy.  His title was “The English Law of Privacy: An Evolving Human Right“.   The lecture contains an interesting an useful overview of the current law of privacy, particularly in relation to the media.  Lord Walker suggests that, as the law of privacy develops “its origin in the law of confidence will become a historical curiosity” and that we have now reached the point where “invasion of personal privacy” is a separate tort.”

I’ve read Lord Walker’s excellent lecture on this complex subject – a must read for anyone interested in the law of privacy and libel.

Monkeying with national sovereignty

Carl Gardner: William Hague’s national sovereignty clause is a pointless, perilous sop to Eurosceptics

Can parliament still be sovereign if, as the courts have consistently ruled, European Union law is supreme over national law? Legally, the answer is surprisingly simple: it can be, and is. Yet the question nags at Eurosceptic Conservatives, and the coalition agreement committed the government to “examine the case” for legislation that makes it clear that ultimate authority over British law remains in Britain.

But they’ve not taken long to examine it. The foreign secretary, William Hague, announced yesterday in Birmingham that an EU bill to be put before the Commons later this year will contain a clause intended to “reaffirm once and for all the sovereignty of our ancient parliament”. His case for doing so, though, does not bear even brief examination……

(I shall leave you the pleasure of reading what else Carl had to say.  It is worth a read.)

I am doing a podcast with Carl Gardner on the subject later today.  I agree with Carl.  I can’t quite see what Hague is on about here.  I suspect, as Carl observed drily to me, that Sir Humphrey would approve of this nonsense. I’d be surprised if Constitutional lawyers are impressed with this – but, who knows, there may be a few out there!

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