Monday, January 01, 2007

NI Regulations enter into force today

In spite of recent controversy amongst Christian groups, attempted legal action and a debate in the Northern Ireland Transitional Assembly the Government has not withdrawn the regulations and they now enter into force.

There are however still a few challenges ahead.

On the 9th January a motion will be presented in the House of Lords to annull the regulations (they can be annulled by Parliament up until the 20th January) and on the 10th January a committee of the House of Commons will be formed to examine the regulations in detail.

The final challenge is the High Court Judicial Review planned for the 1st and 2nd March.

This is most unlikely to strike down the regulations (had this been their aim they would doubtless have delayed their entry into operation until April as initially requested by the Christians' lawsuit) - notably the Government is only doing in the regulations what is contained in the Equality Act 2006, given Royal Assent in February.

A key issue before the Court will be to stabilise the interpretation of the regulations. Currently there are some wild hypotheses and theories about what would contravene the regs which are a little far fetched, but as the High Court sets a precedent it would formally lay down the interpretation of the regulations, probably endorsing the Government's already stated interpretation.

In any case the Human Rights Act takes precedence over secondary legislation and allows the Courts to either reinterpret legislation in acordance with the HRA or to strike down incompatible provisions.

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