UK Liberty

Dangerous sabre-rattling

Posted in politicians on liberty, rule of law by ukliberty on March 3, 2009

Tom Winsor in the Times on Harriet Harman’s recent threats:

The media is hot with the notion of a special Act of Parliament to extinguish his contractual rights.

Unless it has the effect of persuading the man voluntarily to give up the money, this is all dangerous sabre-rattling. Ministers cannot direct RBS to break this contract. The Government is obliged to uphold the law, including the law of contract, and the RBS board would be perfectly entitled to refuse to comply. Even if the bank were to withhold the money, its former chief executive could sue and would win. Contracts are binding on the parties to them, yes, even if you are Her Majesty’s Government. How inconvenient.

Legislating wouldn’t work either. The European Convention on Human Rights says that a state cannot expropriate private property without paying adequate compensation. Even if a British court were to enforce this special legislation, Sir Fred would win in Strasbourg.

Unfortunately, the present Government has form. In 2001, the Government’s No1 hate figure then was Railtrack …

Worth reading the whole article.


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