LETTER: Government is not above the law

John Hayes MP
John Hayes MP
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I was dismayed to read the article of our MP John Hayes in the Free Press of January 31 and his implicit criticism of the Supreme Court, describing it as “…a body conjured up by Tony Blair…”

I also note he regards the recent case initially brought by Gina Miller and others to be “unnecessary” and brought by people “…with more money than sense…”

With respect to Mr Hayes, I would question whether it is appropriate for a Member of Parliament to speak in such disrespectful terms about our courts and the judicial process unless there is strong evidence to suggest that the court and/or litigants have in some way acted inappropriately or unlawfully. 

The Supreme Court was in fact ‘conjured up’ by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and assumed the judicial function of the House of Lords. The Supreme Court is staffed by some of the finest legal brains in the country and in the Gina Miller case it exercised its powers within the law.

As far as I understand the 
position of people who voted in favour of exiting the EU, one of their reasons for voting ‘leave’ was to ensure that powers granted to the European Court are returned to our domestic courts. Presumably, therefore, they respect our judicial system. The judiciary should feel free to exercise its powers free from political pressure or undue influence so long as its powers are exercised diligently and faithfully according to, and within, the law.

Gina Miller and others had every right to bring the case against the Secretary of State because according to constitutional law it is plainly wrong for the Crown, acting through the executive government, to use its prerogative powers to give notice under Article 50 for the UK to cease to be a member of the EU in the absence of the approval of parliament. The principle of constitutional law at the centre of the case was not a complicated one and the law should have been respected by the government without the need for a contested High Court and Supreme Court case.

The government is not above the law. It is the government therefore which is responsible for wasting money fighting a hopeless defence of Gina Miller’s case. We live in a parliamentary democracy where a referendum on any topic can only be advisory to parliament unless very clear language to the contrary is used in the referendum legislation.

No such language appears in the Referendum Act 2015. Parliament is now quite properly having a say on how we exit the EU.

I would expect our MP to 
respect a citizen’s right to hold the government to account. The day we bypass the law and discard respect for the judiciary is the day we start on a constitutional downward spiral that can only lead to disorder and chaos as our friends across the Atlantic are now discovering.