Lawyers in the senior courts regularly use Hansard in a technique known as ‘statutory interpretation’ to act as clues about the intention of legislation.
For example, one could argue that the same parliament could not have intended to legislate for human rights and intended to ignore whistleblowing protection for junior doctors in training in 1999.
The judge in the High Court said clearly that he did not intend to assess on the merits of the Secretary of State for Health’s policy, and nor do I.
But arguably there is a clear mismatch between his conclusion in the official judgment here that “he is not exercising compulsory powers”
and the consistent Hansard official reporting of the opinions of the Secretary of State over a period of months (this was from April):-
If it is the case that parliamentary statements cannot be taken seriously, then what?
It has been argued that this is the ‘hurley burley’ of politics, but in fact this is the judiciary potentially making the legislature and executive look like an outright joke. This is ‘not a good look’ for the higher courts.
A crucial issue is that if there was NOT going to be an imposition why didn’t the Secretary of State make this clear in subsequent statements to parliament?
Why was the BMA JDC left with the impression of imposition?
“We have a simple ask of Gov: stop the imposition. If it agrees to do this, junior doctors will call off industrial action” – @McCourtEllen
— Shaun Lintern (@ShaunLintern) August 31, 2016
It can be easily argued that the whole case rests on this fundamental potential deception, and needs to be scrutinised from a jurisprudence perspective with utmost care.