Letter: When ministers are in contempt

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Law Lords' decision on the Baker case ('Law Lords assert authority over Government in landmark ruling', 28 July) is indeed, as Michael Beloff QC argued, of immense constitutional importance. Ministers of the Crown must indeed be subject to the rule of law. It is therefore legitimate that injunctions should be placed upon the exercise of executive power - this is especially important now that such power is exercised in an increasingly cavalier fashion.

We have inherited the separation of powers from our unwritten constitution. Now the Law Lords are steering this towards a more contemporary balance in which separate powers are also a check upon each other.

This welcome development raises legitimate concerns, however. If the law is not to be politicised, it must be 'constitutionalised'. Only a written constitution, grounded in popular assent, can bestow legitimacy on the courts sitting in judgment upon alleged abuses of power by our politicians.

The Rees-Mogg action on the Maastricht decision is a further example of a conflict between the law and Parliament, and if the courts are to rule on this, they must be vested with the proper authority.

Yours faithfully,



Charter 88

London, EC1

28 July