Friday, 12 October 2012

From the Party Conferences No. 3 ~ Human Rights

"I still believe we should scrap the Human Rights Act altogether" - Mrs Theresa May - Home Secretary - 2012 Conservative Party Conference.

"At the last election we promised to do something about our out of control human rights culture. It’s just crazy that people who are determined to attack our society are able to go back to the courts again and again and claim that it would infringe their human rights to send them back to the countries they come from. We know we cannot deal with this in the way we want while we are in coalition. But we cannot go on the way we are.  So my commitment to you is that Damian Green and I will give this Party a clear plan for change on human rights" - Mr Chris Grayling MP - Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice" - 2012 Conservative Party Conference.

Not much room for doubt there!  If Mrs May has her way, the Human Rights Act 1998 is on its way out.  Chris Grayling is very marginally more nuanced: there will be a clear plan for change.  Of course, neither Mrs May nor Mr Grayling have said that they wish to take the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights.  I don't think that would be possible without the UK leaving the Council of Europe and I very much doubt that most British politicians want to do that.  The Attorney-General - Mr Dominic Grieve QC - has warned that he may block any Conservative plan to leave the European Convention on Human Rights warning that Britain would become a "pariah state" comparable to Belarus. - The Telegraph 9th October -  "Britain could become Belarus if it abandons legislation warns Attorney-General

Mr Grieve indicated that the policy of the government was a continuing review of how the Human Rights Act and the ECHR function.  There is no government policy on withdrawing from the Convention on Human Rights and this is reflected in the terms of reference of the Commission on a Bill of Rights

In June 2011, Mr Khan (Shadow Justice Secretary) spoke at the London School of Economics Law department.  In this speech Mr Khan said that "the Human Rights Act still stands tall as one of our many proud achievements."  He continued - "We should champion that and the benefits it has brought – to all people that live under its jurisdiction – the law abiding majority that are entitled to have their rights protected by the public authorities that govern them and the minorities that often have no other recourse to the law, before which we are all equal."

The Human Rights Act should - and could - be a measure of national pride and international leverage – as, with our human rights enshrined in law, we can speak with some authority about abuses by other regimes.

Mr Khan added - "The best way to foster this may be to create an additional Bill of Rights and The Labour Party is willing to engage in debates about how this could be developed.  But on the basis that it will incorporate and go beyond the Human Rights Act, not in any way retreat from it."

The Commission on a Bill of Rights has completed its public consultations with some 900 responses to the second consultation.  A report is due before the end of the year.

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