Thursday, May 25, 2017
   
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Bill Cash MP
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The Vote on Bill Cash's Amendment to the EU Bill "Sovereignty Clause"

 On 11th January, Bill Cash and other MPs spoke on Clause 18 (the so-called 'sovereignty clause') of the EU Bill and he put forward tabled two linked amendments to translate the inadequate Clause 18 of the EU Bill into a sovereignty clause - firstly, by expressly reaffirming the sovereignty of Parliament, and, second, by precluding the courts or the Supreme Court from invoking any common law principle under Clause 18.

The Sovereignty of Parliament is the democratic basis of the UK constitution but has become increasingly questioned by judicial assertions. Prior to the election, the Prime Minister made clear the need for a "Sovereignty Bill", and to restrain "unaccountable judges". Clause 18 of the EU Bill is not a "sovereignty clause". It would undermine Parliamentary Sovereignty, by encouraging judicial supremacy. The government's Notes on the EU Bill, which the courts can and would use, advance the dangerous notion that Parliamentary Sovereignty is a "common law principle", and therefore subject to judicial authority.

An exchange of letters between the Prime Minister and Bill Cash (as Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee) failed to provide any reassurance on these points. Parliament needed to reaffirm its Sovereignty as a legal and historical fact by voting for Bill Cash's amendments.

As reported in the press (see articles by James Forsyth and Melanie Phillips), tensions rose high between the Prime Minister and those supporting Bill Cash's amendments - with David Cameron "being compared to Flashman, the public-school bully in Tom Brown’s Schooldays."

On the evening of 11th January, the crucial sovereignty amendment was defeated by 314 votes to 39, with 27 Conservative MPs backing it: Steve Baker, Brian Binley, Peter Bone, Andrew Bridgen, Douglas Carswell, Bill Cash, Chris Chope, James Clappison, David Davis, Richard Drax, Zac Goldsmith, Gordon Henderson, Philip Hollobone, Bernard Jenkin, Chris Kelly, Edward Leigh, Julian Lewis, Jason McCartney, David Nuttall, Mark Reckless, John Redwood, Richard Shepherd, Sir John Stanley, Sir Peter Tapsell, Andrew Turner, Charles Walker and John Whittingdale, in addition to 8 Labour MPs,  5 DUP MPs and 1 Independent MP.

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