Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Lord Lilley:

    My Lords, I have listened to and read the debates so far with great respect. They have been dominated by distinguished noble Lords who are lawyers, and I am not. I want to raise two questions of fact and ask those noble lawyers, and indeed the distinguished prelates, why they have not mentioned them until now.

    The first point has just been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Howard. Contrary to what has been asserted many times—that Parliament cannot by law state whether or not a country is safe—in 2004 the Blair Government did just that. They introduced legislation which created an irrebuttable presumption that a number of listed countries were safe. It was subsequently tested in the courts and upheld. Why have none of the noble Lords who have asserted that we cannot do that mentioned and dealt with the fact that we have done it in the past?

    The second factual point was raised by the noble Lord who spoke from the Lib Dem Benches. He said that, if we do this sort of thing in the Bill, which gives us the right to override international law and not necessarily to respond to decisions and demands of the European court, we will forfeit our respect and ability to influence people in the international arena. Why does he, and others who have made similar points, not mention the fact that the French Government have done just that? They have returned an asylum seeker to Uzbekistan despite the order of the European court that they should not, and despite even a ruling of the Conseil d’État that they should bring him back. Have they lost all respect in international fora? Have they lost any ability to influence public opinion internationally? Why does that not get mentioned in this place?

    Lord Clarke of Nottingham:

    I cannot claim to remember this clearly, but did anybody challenge with evidence the earlier cases that my noble friend tries to cite as a precedent? If anybody had had evidence showing facts to be contrary to what was then laid down in statute, does my noble friend think it would have survived a challenge in today’s Supreme Court?

    Lord Lilley:

    I cannot say what today’s Supreme Court would do, but the supreme courts of our country in those days did entertain a challenge. Greece, in particular, was not thought to be safe, and presumably they would not think now that France is safe. They upheld the right of the Executive to make those decisions and did not try to supersede them or consider evidence as to whether the accusations were correct.

    Viscount Hailsham:

    This is a different situation. Here we have the expression of opinion by the Supreme Court being displaced by the Government through legislation.

    Baroness Meacher:

    My Lords, I do not think it is relevant to cite France. The fact is that this country has a great reputation for upholding the rule of law and international law, and we play a great part across the world. This Bill is threatening that reputation and that role. France does not have that reputation or role, in my opinion.

    Lord Lilley:

    I am not sure what the noble Baroness’s question to me is, but, as a great Francophile, I am sorry to hear her abuse the French nation in that way.

    My noble friend said that this was different because the Supreme Court has expressed an opinion. Amendment 5 says that a purpose of the Bill should be to uphold the rule of law. As I understand it, the rule of law in this country for 1,000 years has meant that laws made and approved by our elected representatives are partially implemented by the courts, and all of us—citizens, public officials, Ministers and police, and even lawyers and bishops—are subject to those laws. If we do not like the law, we can try to persuade our elected representatives to change it. If Parliament feels that the courts have interpreted laws in a way that Parliament did not intend or that is out of line with the values and interests of the public who elect it, Parliament can change the law. That is what we are doing. We have a perfect right to do so as long as Parliament remains sovereign.