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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Tory rebellion grows on reform of Human Rights Act

David Cameron's determination to repeal the Human Rights Act withdraw from the ECHR is not going to be without its difficulties. According to today's Guardian there is a growing rebellion amongst backbench Tory MPs against the proposal.

The paper says that Conservative MP David Davis, a prominent Eurosceptic, has threatened to rebel against any legislation that could lead to the UK withdrawing from the European court of human rights:

Davis’s reported comments are a sign of growing rebellion on the Tory backbenches as the complexity and political difficulties involved in seceding from the judicial authority of the Strasbourg court become increasingly apparent to the government.

The former justice minister Ken Clarke and former attorney general Dominic Grieve QC – both re-elected to the Commons last week – have in the past warned about the danger of defying decisions handed down by ECHR judges on the grounds that it would undermine respect for the rule of law across Europe.

Davis, the MP for Haltemprice and Howden, told his local paper, the Hull Daily Mail: “I’m afraid we will come into conflict with the European court and I don’t want us to leave it. If we leave, it’s an excuse for everyone else to leave. So I think that could be quite an interesting argument, come the day. I think it is more likely there will be an argument over that than over Europe.”

Like Clarke and Grieve, Davis says he is in favour of reform but opposes unilateral withdrawal from the ECHR – one of the likely consequences of the party’s draft bill of rights.

Separately, in an open letter to the prime minister the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute points out that Tory proposals for a British bill of rights will limit the application of human rights laws to the “most serious cases” and exclude those “who do not fulfil their responsibilities in society”. Their intervention adds to a growing list of rights groups opposing the move.

The Tories only have a majority of 12. I have a sense that this fight is winnable and that we can save the Human Rights Act, or at the very least keep Britain within the European Court.
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