David Cameron has comfortably seen off a rebellion by Eurosceptic Tories over measures aimed at protecting Parliament’s sovereignty over law from Brussels.
Senior Tory Bill Cash, chairman of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, led a rebel attempt to bolster the “sovereignty clause” in the European Union Bill.
But despite a rebellion by 27 Tory MPs, the measure was defeated by 314 votes to 39, Government majority 275.
Mr Cash (Stone) warned that the clause, which states EU law only has effect in the UK because of legislation already passed by Parliament, did not go far enough. During the EU Bill’s committee stage on the floor of the Commons Mr Cash warned of increasing “judicial activism” from the courts in their interpretation of laws.
The Government offered a concession to Mr Cash and his allies by offering to rewrite the Bill’s explanatory notes to make clear that it does not subject Parliament sovereignty to the decisions of courts.
But Mr Cash said: “Even if the explanatory notes were to be disavowed on this matter, the problem of judicial assertions relating to parliamentary sovereignty would not disappear.”
He claimed his effort to alter the Bill would create a fail-safe and a firewall against any attempt by the judiciary to interfere with “the sovereignty of this House”. The measure currently in the Bill was “emphatically not a sovereignty clause” and would “actually undermine parliamentary sovereignty by encouraging judicial supremacy”.
The Supreme Court had a “critical significant mass of those with profoundly Eurocentric credentials”, he added.
The threat to parliamentary sovereignty came not only from the “common law radicalism” of judges but also from EU legislation “which claims constitutional supremacy over member states’ constitutions”. Mr Cash said: “It is time that we turned the tide and made it clear exactly where we stand.”
Europe minister David Lidington insisted the sovereignty clause was necessary to provide a clear statement about the status of EU law in future legal cases.