Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Throwing the toys out of the cot

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Winston Churchill was a prime mover in getting international agreement about human rights. This resulted in fundamental human rights being agreed by nations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the European Convention on Human Rights.

The European Convention – and the European Court - on Human Rights have absolutely nothing to do with UK’s membership of the European Union.

The Human Rights Act was introduced by Labour in 1998 and came into force in 2000. It effectively enshrines the Convention in UK law.

David Cameron first proposed the idea of a British Bill of Rights in 2006.  The last government established a Commission to look into it. It reported in 2012 but didn’t come to any substantive conclusions. Then there was a document outlining Tory proposals in 2014 and the promise of a draft Bill for 2014. No sign of it – another broken promise. 

The Tory party manifesto promised to “scrap the Human Rights Act, and introduce a British Bill of Rights. This will break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights, and make our own Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK”.

The Queen’s Speech promised to introduce “proposals for a British Bill of Rights”, but the plans are quite unclear. David Cameron has been asked repeatedly about the government’s position on the UK withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights and he’s refused to rule it out.

If the UK left the Convention, we would be in the sole company of Belorussia – Europe’s last dictatorship – as the only two countries in Europe not to be signatories. No wonder, there’s a lot of opposition in the Conservative Party. 

The Tories’ plans would not make it easier to deport foreign criminals or address any of the other supposed problems.

Mr Cameron is flouncing around like a petulant child rather than accepting that, in a democracy with an independent judiciary, the judges will sometimes tell you that you’ve got it wrong. The proper response is not to throw your toys out of the cot.