Ian Shires

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Willenhall North Ward, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Walsall MBC Learn more

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Tom Brake: Lib Dems will fight to keep citizens’ rights to sue the government

by Ian Shires on 12 August, 2017

One of the things that worried me most about Brexit before the referendum was that it would lead to an erosion of the rights that we have as citizens to hold our Government to account.

In any civilised society, citizens must have the right to sue the Government. Governments make mistakes but are not very good at owning up to them or fixing them. Anyone who has worked as an MP’s caseworker will have seen shocking examples of this.  Sometimes the only way to sort things out is through the courts.

It seems that the not-so-great Repeal Bill is repealing that right. From the Independent:

A clause in the Brexit bill set to be debated next month means Britons could lose the ability to seek compensation or damages over issues including workers’ rights, environmental policy and business regulation.

The Government can currently be sued under The European Court of Justice’s 1991 Francovich ruling. It stipulates that a member state is liable if an individual or business has been damaged because of a failure by the country to implement EU law.

Our Tom Brake is having none of this. He said:
This is a shameless attempt to take away people’s rights through the backdoor.Citizens must be able to hold the government to account when it breaks the rules.

The Liberal Democrats will fight in Parliament to stop Brexit from being used to water down individual rights.

This has to be an issue where the Government can be defeated. Let’s hope that the Labour Party, which is always banging on about people’s rights, puts its money where its mouth is. Will the DUP back the Government and, if so, will enough Tory MPs threaten to defy the whip?  So far, Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Tories have pretty much done what they have been told by the Whips. So much for them having influence.
The important thing over the next few weeks is to give people enough real-life examples of where this matters. The case of Asthma sufferers suing the Government over air pollution is one.  
Fighting for the right to sue the MOD over inadequately equipped troops is another.
The Brexit vote was supposed to take back control. What the Leave campaign didn’t tell you was that that was for the British Government, not the people, who will find themselves more powerless than before. It’s over to MPs to preserve this right.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron’s Musings

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