Deputy PM Nick Clegg defends UK human rights laws

Nick Clegg Nick Clegg admits there are problems with how human rights laws are interpreted

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Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has defended the UK's human rights laws, saying they have done much to protect the vulnerable and the powerless.

Writing in the Guardian, he said governments had "belittled" and "trashed" such laws in recent years.

However, Mr Clegg said the Human Rights Act was often manipulated and called for a "sensible discussion" about how it should be interpreted in future.

The Conservatives want to scrap the act and replace it with a Bill of Rights.

However, in his article, Mr Clegg rejected repealing the act and said the Liberal Democrat position was that any potential Bill of Rights would bolster current laws and "protect other British liberties, such as the right to jury trial."

Last week Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to "get a grip" on cases where the current laws were used inappropriately.

The prime minister said that people should "understand the real scope of these rights and not use them as a cover for rules or excuses that fly in the face of common sense".

Start Quote

This is a welcome intervention from the deputy prime minister and certainly not before time”

End Quote Shami Chakrabarti Director, Liberty

Agreeing with Mr Cameron, the Lib Dem leader said the "biggest problem" was that the Human Right Act is sometimes "manipulated not just by the media but by over-cautious officials" who use it to justify their decisions.

"It was, for example, of no help to anyone when police spokespeople blamed human rights for a decision to deliver a KFC meal to a fugitive on a roof," said Mr Clegg.

Responsibilities 'myth'

But, despite this, the deputy PM argues that human rights legislation in the UK has done much good and should be protected.

"[It has] been instrumental in preventing local authorities from snooping on law-abiding families, in removing innocent people from the national DNA database, in preventing rapists from cross-examining their victims in court, in defending the rights of parents to have a say in the medical treatment of their children."

Mr Clegg also rejected as a "myth" the view that people should lose human rights protection in some cases.

"[It] panders to a view that no rights, not even the most basic, come without responsibilities", he said, and that "criminals ought to forfeit their very humanity the moment they step out of line."

The European Convention on Human Rights protections - such as the right to a private and family life and freedom of expression - became directly enforceable in UK courts in 2000 via the Human Rights Act.

In his article, Mr Clegg also said the UK would seek to reform the European Court of Human Rights when it takes over chairmanship of the Council of Europe in November - in order to improve the speed and consistency of the court's decisions.

Campaigners have welcomed Mr Clegg's words.

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said: "This is a welcome intervention from the deputy prime minister and certainly not before time.

"The coalition was stitched together on a civil liberties ticket. You can't talk human rights in the Arab spring whilst trashing them at home all year round."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    The only people in this country who should be covered by this law should be people born in this country not illegals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Some 'human rights' are important - eg right to live, right not to be tortured etc.

    But, others can be misused - right to private & family life, for instance. Does this mean people who lied during asylum hearings can't be deported once they have a family here?

    I believe some should be universal & permanent, but others should be dependant on the person meeting certain responsibilities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    continue- because of theur "Yooman rights" so they get someone pregnant (we'll pick up the benefits bill) stay on benefits, probabl;y re-offend. Right to a family life/ tell the widower and kids of PC Sharon Bezhenifsky, or the manchester father whose daughter was mown down by an iraqui kurdish gangster. As I have to work to 70, watch my pension disappear and taxes rise, I think I'll claim asylum

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    the BBc likes to think that supportes of HRA are all cuddly liberals and so all opponents must be moth-frothing fascists. actually, most people would continue to support the original ECHR intent- no-one forced from their home for their nationality, gassed for being the wrong religion etc, but like so many in the UK, i see somali gansters killing, robbing, then they cant be sent back -to continue

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Everyone deserves the most basic of human rights, regardless of how terrible their actions may have been. That said, political correctness has gone way too far and now seems to indirectly protect even the most hardened of criminals these days. Even so, if Clegg wants to protect the 'vulnerable' then perhaps he should work on ensuring funding isn't cut by his buddy Cameron for those who need it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Well he would wouldn't he ? As a leading member of the Bleeding Hearts and Hand Wringer brigade he is so preoccupied with Human Rights, Health & Safety, Equality and suppporting the feckless that he looses sight of the need to do something that is actually useful & important to get the country's economy moving , create wealth & jobs.And also Clegg ,we don't want Immigrants and your multiculturism

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Every right has an associated duty - to exercise a right implies that the associated duty is honoured. Clearly, there are human rights that must be respected but what are the human duties that go with those rights?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The problem in this country is an archaic and outdated legal system that allows unscrupulous lawyers to create niche markets (at our expense) by manipulating, originally well meaning legislation so that it fits their money making agendas. Unfortunately this is unlikely to be tackled by politicians, since a high percentage of them happen to have been lawyers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    As far as I'm concerned, anyone who is shown to be acting inhumanely (i.e. commiting gross crimes, violent crimes etc) have proved they are beyong humanity and shown contempt for fellow humans...

    And before people start bleating about differing backgrounds, poverty, etc etc etc GET REAL. No matter what your background you can be taught right from wrong!

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    To all those who want to get rid of it, please explain which bits of it you are unhappy with.

    You can read it here:

    Here's hoping we have an informed debate rather than the regurgitations of comments printed in certain newspapers.

  • Comment number 22.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    My Inner Sadist would like to do a few things that are forbidden by the Human Rights Act to some of its most vocal opponents, and see if they still think it's such a bad idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    "Human rights" are not really a "right" they are laws passed by a society for (supposedly) the bnefitof all their citizens. "Rights" only exist in countries where there is nor war, famine or drought and where the government can "afford" to enforce them. heether you have them or not depends on where you live.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    hypocrite.he is getting ready for conference week, he is wearing his good guy hat,well it will not wash cleggy you betrayed the right thing and announce you intend to stand down as leader at the next election,blue paint his your true colour it goes with the yellow stipe down your back..

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    So many people wishing to have their only protection against the state abusing it's power removed. Be careful what you wish for sheeple, you just might get it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I think it needs reconstructing to work with our existing laws. At the moment it is being exploited by that well known law firm, Loophole Loophole & Loophole. I think each country in the EU needs it's own version, The European bill is just plain silly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    The laws are sensible & clearly written;

    it's the usual story of corrupt & parasitic barristers & other slime that have abused interpretations to a ridiculous extent that have given the laws a bad reputation, as well as equally verminous judges, who see the law as merely a game.

    Before these laws, they did the same with previous legislation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Clegg defends Human Rights in one breath, but then is happy to support the hated Digital Economy Act (that he promised to repeal) that allows big companies to accuse individuals with no evidence and assumes people are guilty unless they can prove themselves innocent.

  • Comment number 14.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    It`s not the human rights act that`s at fault but the interpretation of it that has caused so many problems. A little bit of common sense wouldn`t go amiss.


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