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Monday, June 26, 2006

Recipe for confusion

Tell me I have missed something here. Tory leader, David Cameron, wants to devise a "British bill of rights" to replace the Human Rights Act. At the same time he says that the UK will remain a signatory to the European convention on human rights, allowing citizens to continue to challenge British law in the European court in Strasbourg.

So we are going to have two conventions on human rights, most probably saying roughly the same thing and cases that would currently be dealt with in the British courts will now be determined in Brussels? How does that make things any clearer. For once Lord Tebbit is absolutely right (albeit for the wrong reasons). These plans are muddled and unworkable. I would add that they are unnecessary as well:

Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, told Radio 4's World This Weekend: "I fundamentally disagree with him when he talks about the convention being a foreign set of rights. This was largely drafted by British lawyers and surely it represents the things that are British values. The right to fair trial, freedom of speech, freedom of association - which of these is David Cameron going to junk?"

Lord Falconer, the lord chancellor, said: "The problem is striking the right balance ... You don't rewrite basic human rights because they seem inconvenient."

I think that about sums up the case against Cameron.

Update: Richard Allan very effectively rips apart Cameron's proposals on his blog, whilst Will Howells takes a different tack, underlining the Tory Leader's confusion on this issue through parody:

You may recall that we Conservatives previously suggested we’d scrap the Human Rights Act. This, it turned out, would be problematic as we back the European Convention on Human Rights. So, we’ve come up with a great way of resolving this: repeal the Human Rights Act, but replace it with something called the British Bill of Rights - a sort of “Human Rights Act”.

But our version would be different - oh yes. For a start, it wouldn’t apply to “humans” but to “British people”. No more of this Johnny Foreigner using our own laws against us nonsense. It will be for British people to use in British courts. By using the word “British” several times, we have convinced The Sun, formerly opposed to human rights, to back us. Clever, eh?

Now, I know what you’re thinking. The Human Rights Act is already a British law, codifying a largely British view of human rights, and what’s more the UK already has a Bill of Rights. Ours will be better than that, though. Ours will be a British Bill of Rights. There, I said it.

What will be in our British Bill of Rights? All the good stuff that makes us British. Obviously I can’t yet precisely say what this will be - these things have to be looked at - but I plan to set some lawyers on to the case. Lawyers are, of course, the best people to define Britishness, because having spent so much time in criminal courts they’re familiar with British life first hand. So big up the lawyers.

Some people - let’s call them pro-Europe crime-loving terrorists - will critcise me for being so vague. They may even suggest that this is a desperate attempt to have a policy on something without actually putting forward a proposal at all. Well tish, I say. Tish and pish. I shall deal with that criticism by giving an example of what I would change.

Section 12, for example, of the Human Rights Act 1998 enshrines Freedom of Expression into British law. This sort of recklessness allows Jonathan Ross to be rude about myself and Mrs Thatcher. Well that’s not very British, is it? So Section 12 would be replaced by something more precise, detailing rights and responsibilities. For example, “Subjects shall have the right to go to Wimbledon and to make lovely jam, and the responsibility not to say “wank” to the Leader of the Opposition on BBC One.” The current law is just too vague.

As it stands, the Human Rights Act upholds the rights of foreign criminals to murder us in our beds. I can’t remember which clause precisely does it, but we all know it does. My new British Bill of Rights will make clear - probably, once we’ve decided what’s in it - that we have the right not to be murdered in our beds by foreign criminals, and to demand that any violent death to which we find ourself subject to should be at the hands of proper British criminals.
Complete nonsense of course from Dave.

The HRA is the UK codification of our obligations as signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights, which we signed up to donkeys ago and which placed us at the mercy of those do-gooding wet liberals in the European Court of Human Rights.

Abolish the HRA if you want Dave, but we're still subject to the ECHR and if the UK courts in administering your new Bill of Rights were to trample on ECHR rights, then ECHR rights would triumph on any appeal.

To rid himself of these ECHR rights a Tory government would have to rescind the UK's signature of the ECHR. Which would put us on about the same human rights level as, say, Nortn Korea, or Iran.

Smart move.
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