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Another possible fault line in the Coalition?

Michael Crick | 16:40 UK time, Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Unnoticed perhaps, amidst all the hullaballoo over Ed Miliband's poor performance at Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron exposed another possible fault line in the Coalition.

The new Conservative MP Pritti Patel asked Cameron about the controversial Human Rights Act, passed by the last Labour government in 1998 to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into English law.

Cameron told MPs today:

"What we should be doing is replacing the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights. I've looked at this personally, long and hard, and think that there is no better solution than that and that is... we are committed to starting a process to look at that and see if we can remove some of the nonsenses that have grown up over recent years, and show that you can have a commitment to proper rights but they should be written down here in this country."

That's in line with Conservative policy at the last election.

And it won't please Lib Dems.

At the internal Lib Dem meeting which agreed the Coalition in May, both the Energy Secretary Chris Huhne and the Justice Minister Lord Tom McNally are reported to have threatened to agree to resign if the Human Rights Act is scrapped.

McNally told the Lords two months ago that if the act went then so would he.


  • Comment number 1.

    Bye bye McNally

  • Comment number 2.

    With the debacle over prisoners voting 'rights' Cameron needs to act on this commitment soonest.

  • Comment number 3.

    Scrapping the Human Rights Act would do nothing to stop prisoners voting. We have an international law obligation to allow this arising from the European Convention on Human Rights. To avoid that, the UK must withdraw from the ECHR or get other states to agree to its amendment at record speed, which there's no suggestion it could achieve or wants to try.

  • Comment number 4.

    My hunch is that the BBC has got this wrong.

    You seem to have the inside track and good connections with the Labour Party but little idea about what the Coalition are really doing or saying and even less about the Conservatives.

  • Comment number 5.


    It isn't even SMALL PRINT! Surely you can see that "we are committed to starting a process" means NOTHING. Take the word 'COMMIT'. Under the Clegg Protocol, this loses all sense of promise or pledge, even before the second syllable fades. As for 'starting a process': 'a thousand year process starts with a single weasel-word'.

    This is Dodgy, Dissembling, Deceitful Dave we are addressing here. I don't think there IS a brewer using ARROGANCE as a raw material, but if there were, it would probably result in a beer called 'DAVE'.

  • Comment number 6.

    Actually I doubt that a "British Bill of Rights" would cause any split. A British Bill of Rights would need to be - in the jargon - "ECHR plus". In other words it would need to treat the rights granted under the European Convention as a minumium standard - and then build on them - for example by adding peculiarly British rights - such as the right to trial by jury (something that is not a right granted under the ECHR). Enacting anything which provides for less than the ECHR is not an option. It would mean that the UK would have to withdraw from the Council of Europe - which would have serious international repercussions. In addition, the ECHR rights are built into the devolution settlement, and form one of the planks of the Northern Irish settlement. To denounce the European Convention has serious implications for devolved administrations, and in practice cannot be done without either going back on devolution - or without the agreement of the devolved legislatures - which is unlikely to be forthcoming.

  • Comment number 7.


    We only SIGNED UP to the EU charade. We never actually said we would HONOUR our signature. Indeed, a good case might be made in court, that we never do, so such expectation falls away as unreasonable!

    Rule Britannia.

  • Comment number 8.

    What a load of nonsense about changing the Human rights act adoption!
    - a Daily Mail bus queue wet dream.
    If we are not in Europe - then its a possible.
    - otherwise all cases can simply be referred up to the European court.

    The whole point of making our laws mirror the European act was to stop expensive appeal sojourns off to Srasbrusellland that slow everything down and just swell the pockets and pleasure of lawyers.

  • Comment number 9.

    PS - moderators - I have been posting on BBC comment boxes for well over 3 years...with zero illegality or profanity and no bad Jonathan Ross jokes
    ("all new members") new to this blog perhaps?

  • Comment number 10.

    There does seem to be a great deal of confusion about what the Human Right Act does. As others above have commented, all it really does is incorporate it into British law, so that people can seek redress from a British court rather than the European Court of Human Rights. There is further confusion about the European Convention. It has nothing to do with the EU. It was largely drafted by British lawyers with the express approval of Winston Churchill in the 1950s.

    Even if the government does repeal the Human Rights Act, it appears it is committed to the European Convention. On 24 November Ken Clarke, the Justice Secretary said in the Commons: - "The coalition Government do not intend to withdraw from the European convention on human rights, which was imposed by the victorious British on the rest of Europe after the war in order to establish British values across the countries that were recovering from fascism and was drafted largely by Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, who put what he thought were the best principles of British justice into it".

  • Comment number 11.

    What's the worst thing that can happen? A Lib Dem cabinet minister resigns. The post vacated by his party is then filled by a Conservative. Turkeys voting for Christmas?

    In reality however there is no need for anyone in a COALITION government as opposed to a single party administration to resign on some point of party principle. Coalition means compromise or die. Being 57 in number compared to the 305 Conservative MPs means the Lib Dems have to compromise more than the majority coalition party. They would have been aware of this from the start, as we should be now.

  • Comment number 12.

    I agree with the Great Conservative Leader

    In May 1948, under the Honorary Chairmanship of Winston Churchill, the Hague Congress calls for the convening of a European Assembly, the drafting of a Charter for Human Rights and the establishment of a Court of Justice responsible for ensuring its proper implementation.


  • Comment number 13.

    '4. At 6:56pm on 01 Dec 2010, KennethM wrote:

    You seem to have the inside track and good connections with the Labour Party but little idea..'

    Hardly the ideal skill set for coherent, impartial reporting.

    Speaking of coherence and undue access to questionably relevant regimes, if it wasn't so darn serious for my kids' future, this would be funny:

    It seems we are still in the hands of those barely qualified to change a low-energy lightbulb, even when no longer in power.

  • Comment number 14.

    The so called human "rights" are more about entitlements.
    A proper British human rights bill should be based on John Locke's second treatise of Government, where he sets out that government should be about protecting every man's right to "life, liberty and property". The right to life does not mean right to a good life, but the absence of murder. Liberty does not mean freedom from worry,hunger, work, etc but not being forced to do something, and property does not mean another man's property but the right to keep what you earn.

    Do this and we will have moved away from the tyranny of majority rule that we are under at the moment.

  • Comment number 15.


    A breath of fresh air and sweet soil. Please post more in the future.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    good idea


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