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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tories’ bid for UK Bill of Rights declared 'dead'

Today's Independent contains more good news for those of us on the libertarian side of the political divide, namely that Conservatives’ plans to dilute the influence of the European Court of Human Rights before the next general election have been pronounced “dead” after the commission set up to review the issue ended in deadlock.

As the paper records Liberal Democrats had vowed to block any moves to change the Act which incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into British law. It has now emerged that the nine-member panel set up by the Government has been unable to agree amongst themselves on whether there should be a British Bill of Rights, which the Tories support:

Baroness (Helena) Kennedy, a Labour peer, and Philippe Sands, a law professor, refused to join the other seven members in signing up to the merits of such a measure. Writing in The Independent today, they warn that a British Bill would “be used to strip people of basic rights and decouple the UK from the European Convention."

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, who is determined to reform human rights laws, will try to salvage something from yesterday’s inconclusive report from the commission. But his proposals early next year will be limited, and even they may have to be shelved until after the 2015 election because of Lib Dem opposition.

A senior Lib Dem source said last night: “There is absolutely no question of this Coalition Government repealing the Human Rights Act or withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights. The Conservatives are perfectly entitled to develop their own policies for their election manifesto."

That is a nice Christmas present and another benefit of the Liberal democrats involvement in the coalition.

The debate is more nuanced than you suggest. The European Convention is already incorporated into UK law - that is what the Human Rights Act did.

In principle there is also nothing necessarily illiberal about having a British Bill of Rights (as Lord Lester - the LibDem peer on the Commission has supported) - so long as the British Bill is Convention Rights "plus" - indeed a British Bill would give us the opportunity to address some lacunas in the Convention (such as a right to jury trial). What would be illiberal and would be unacceptable is to stop the right (ultimately) of individuals to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, to ignore judgement of the ECtHR, or to withdraw from the Convention (and by implication from the Council of Europe).
Yes I understand that. However it is clear that the Tory bid was for a Bill of Rights that is Convention Rights 'minus' irrespective of treaty obligations and in that regard I consider this a victory.
Illinois has its own Human Rights Act even though it is part of the "Union". So what's the bother? Why is this such a difficult concept to accept when it is COMMON in the United States ... of America. Not a problem gov - so long as individual state laws do not seek to conflict with the "Bill of Right" in the US Constitution. No sweat.
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