This week Parliament has tried to sort out a serious legislative mess of the EU’s making. This is no way to run a serious country. The European Court of Justice recently struck down a European Directive on Data Retention. This Directive, agreed to by the last Labour government, had been faithfully transposed into UK law. The ECJ left us not knowing what the law now is, as the UK’s enactment of EU law can itself now be challenged.
All three main parties rushed to agree a new Westminster law which they hope will now be compatible with EU law as redefined by the Court. There is, of course, no way of being sure it will do this. All the time the European Court is at war with the EU legislature we will live with an uncertain law. In addition, as the Home Secretary confirmed to me, the EU itself may have a go at new legislation, which would then require the UK to start all over again with its implementing legislation.
Civil liberty campaigners think the new law goes too far in allowing the authorities access to records of people’s phone calls and messages. The government and Opposition point out the UK put more safeguards in our implementation of the EU law than they need do. The latest attempt to implement adds additional safeguards and requires new legislation in two years time, along with a major review.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the judgements made about how much we need to authorise to keep us safe, surely more people can agree this is not the right way to legislate in a democracy. Parliament should decide these matters, not the EU and the ECJ. Parliamentary law could then be more consistent, and not subject to sudden reversal by a court, which just serves to undermine the law and make enforcement difficult if not impossible.