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

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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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • nigel hunter 12th Aug '17 - 1:03pm

    This is one reason why the Reform Bill and its supporters want to get rid of the ECJ so that the rights of people are taken away and the Govt reign supreme in all things.

  • Bill Fowler 12th Aug '17 - 4:38pm

    I have recently had a run in with both my local council and large energy supplier (different subjects) and despite being threatened with various UK ombudsmen were absolutely adamant that they were in the right… until I told them I would be reporting them to the Europeam Commission which has some marvelously obscure departments dealing with most matters. Within an hour the Energy Company had corrected the problem and the council offered me an alternative solution which it had previously denied was possible.

    I think as far as normal people go they probably don’t realise the rights they have thrown away as all the UK press and politicians did was complain about the EC.

  • Christopher Curtis 12th Aug '17 - 5:31pm

    We need to be precise here. Not having the right to sue the government if it fails to implement European law after Brexit makes a certain kind of sense (if Brexit makes any sense at all). Losing all rights to sue the government and other public bodies would be a loss of our rights.We need to be clear which is being proposed, which is why the repeal bill needs to be intensely scrutinised in minute detail and heavily amended. It is not a simple enabling bill as the government has claimed.

  • nigel hunter 12th Aug '17 - 6:52pm

    These obscure departments of the EU should be widely published for people do not know of them. As you say they could be of use in tackling with UK beaurocracy. Yes the repeal bill should be scrutinised line by line . Once these obscure depts have been identified they can be added to our laws. That way we know that the repeal bill IS A STRAIGHT TRANSFERENCE OF EU RULES INTO UK LAW.

  • Antony Watts 16th Aug '17 - 11:00am

    So now the Tories and Labour “Leave” want to take away tow fundamental rights

    1. Freedom of movement
    2. Government justice

    When what we need to be doing in this age is to increase both for people.

    Hope the LibDems adopt a positive policy towards both, to increase and make easier free movement in Europe, and to maintain the ECJ as a intra-national court.

    And in addition support the EU bodies that provide justice for us all.

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