The Rwanda Bill flushed out the anti-democrats


Lord Carlile, a former independent reviewer of UK terrorism legislation, told Radio 4’s Today program this week that the government’s ill-fated Rwanda bill is an “illegitimate interference of politics in the law”. He claimed the government was “rising itself to an unacceptable level above the law.” And he even warned that the bill, in its effort to circumvent a Supreme Court ruling, was a step toward “totalitarianism.” This is not accurate and constitutes a serious misunderstanding of our constitution.

It seems that Lord Carlile wants to join that long line of patrician lawyers who are driven out every time a policy hated by the elites is about to be implemented. In the case of the Rwanda bill, however, one wonders why Carlile even bothered to intervene. probably doomed anyway. Since its announcement in April 2022, the plan to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda has been mired in legal battles. This practice has been debated between courts, declared illegal, lawful, and then illegal again.

Currently, the Conservatives are trying to pass a bill that would make Rwanda a safe country for deportation purposes. This is what Lord Carlile objects to as being illegal.

It’s unclear exactly what point Carlile is trying to make here. Is he trying to claim that international law is sovereign over the British Parliament and that it cannot pass a law contrary to an international treaty like the European Convention on Human Rights? It’s simply not true. In fact, this argument was explicitly refuted by the Supreme Court in 2021. The court reiterated the fact that international laws – treaties – are only binding here in the UK if they are incorporated into our law by Parliament. Parliament is the control mechanism, Parliament is in charge – it can do what it wants.

Did Carlile instead mean that because the courts had declared Rwanda “dangerous”, Parliament could not ignore them? This is also incorrect. As an article for the British Constitutional Law Association points out, Parliament has every right to overturn court judgments. Indeed, it is about going even further in a different context. Currently, the British government intends to pass legislation to overturn hundreds of wrongful convictions handed down in the Post Office scandal. Parliament has a lot more power than some people seem to think.

Perhaps Carlile meant that Parliament cannot control the courts at all? This, once again, is false. In 2005, Parliament passed the Constitutional Reform Act to create the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Article 23 et seq. of this law shows the extent to which Parliament exercises considerable power over the highest court in the land. In section 7, you will discover that Parliament itself is the one that gives power to the Lord Chief Justice. And what Parliament gives, it can take back.

Did Carlile perhaps mean that Parliament cannot ever change the law? Surely this is exactly why Parliament exists. The courts will apply the law as it was passed by Parliament. If Parliament changes the law, then the courts are forced to apply the new law and ignore the old one.

Lord Reed of the Supreme Court, in his 2021 decision, was generous to all those who appear to misunderstand the constitution and parliamentary sovereignty. He wonders if our exposure to international bodies, which see the world very differently from us, has made it difficult for some to understand how our own constitution actually works.

Most human societies start out as tyrannies – just like the United Kingdom. Under these tyrannies, what we call “supremacy” (all power) is vested in one person. Historically in the United Kingdom it was a monarch, as was also the case in other European countries. But during the process of democratization, the British did something slightly different. Many countries have written a set of constitutional rules and replaced their king with a president. We have, however, replaced ours with a parliament – elected by the people and sovereign over our other institutions.

When Lord Carlile and others like him claim that the Rwandan plan is illegal, they are actually revealing their anti-democratic leanings. Carlile has every right to disagree with the Rwanda bill. But telling the public that unelected courts have sovereignty over our elected parliament is not fair. The courts are subject to the law, not above it – and the law is made in Parliament. It’s time to put an end to all misunderstanding.

This article is originally published on


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