The Conseil Constitutionnel in France has just struck down an article in the Government’s proposed new law on public order. The Law was brought forward to meet the challenges emerging from the Gilets Jaunes demonstrations, but many opposition MPs considered the proposal too drastic. The Conseil agreed. It’s word is final – there is no appeal.
In a Republique where there is an elected head of State, the French devised a means to stop democratically elected parliaments and presidents from contravening the Constitution – a Constitution which enshrines La Declaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen in stone such that no government can overturn its provisions.
During my time in France, this Constitutional Committee has cancelled entire laws passed by both houses of parliament. It acts as a vital brake on excesses of the moment, and does so by reference to the paramount authority, the Vth Republics Constitution overwhelmingly endorsed in a referendum vote.
The Article struck out on April 4th was deemed to give officials too much power to curtail the rights of individuals to demonstrate on the streets. This defence of liberties was done by an appointed and un-elected Council acting on its express constitutional remit. It comprises experienced experts, such as former presidents, former senior ministers, and presidents of the Senate or Assembly.
The UK has no such safeguard operating today. There is nothing to stop either the excesses we have witnessed in the House of Commons in recent weeks, or the abuse of Royal Prerogative by the Prime Minister.
The Supreme Court can be appealed to, but it cannot strike down a law passed by Parliament. And without a single, concise, comprehensive text for the UK constitution, its deliberations are too exposed to the political views of its members.
We appear to have nothing to stop what I regard as criminally minded MPs who corrupt the proper procedure of political debate for partisan, sectional interests.
We have a crisis now around the issue of Brexit because certain Remain minded MPs are prepared to act without any moral or constitutional constraint; they break particular moral or constitutional bounds which constrain them from imposing their will on events.
Dominic Grieve has been a key figure in this: he gave false assurances to his constituency association about his view of Brexit, then took unprecedented and unconstitutional steps to thwart the Brexit referendum result.
He was assisted in this by the partisan behaviour of the Speaker. John Bercow has continued to allow motions at odds
with the Referendum result,
with the promise of the government to implement that result, and
the orderly and practical conduct of business to implement Brexit