UK Politics

Home Secretary Theresa May wants Human Rights Act axed

Theresa May
Theresa May says the Home Office has had "some problems" with the Human Rights Act

The home secretary has called for the Human Rights Act to be scrapped, less than a fortnight after Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said it was "here to stay".

The act enshrines the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law.

But Theresa May told the Sunday Telegraph she "personally" would like to see it go because of the problems it caused for the Home Office.

Lib Dem Chris Huhne has warned scrapping the act would threaten the coalition.

The coalition has set up a commission comprising of human rights experts to report on the possibility of bringing in a Bill of Rights for the UK to replace the Human Rights Act, by the end of the year.

'Extremely uncomfortable'

Speaking as the Conservative Party conference got under way in Manchester, Ms May said: "I'd personally like to see the Human Rights Act go because I think we have had some problems with it.

"I see it, here in the Home Office, particularly, the sort of problems we have in being unable to deport people who perhaps are terrorist suspects.

"Obviously we've seen it with some foreign criminals who are in the UK."

Prime Minister David Cameron said he agreed with Mrs May that the act should be scrapped and replaced with a British Bill of Rights.

'Commonsense'

Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, he said that because of the coalition it would take longer to review this than he would like.

He also said he wanted to change the "chilling culture" created by the act.

He cited an example of a prison van being driven nearly 100 miles to be used to transport a prisoner 200 yards "when he was perfectly happy to walk".

"The Human Rights Act doesn't say that's what you have to do. It's the sort of chilling effect of people thinking 'I will be found guilty under it'.

"The government can do a huge amount to communicate to institutions and individuals let's have some commonsense, let's have some judgment, let's have that applying rather than this over-interpretation of what's there."

Britain is about to start a six-month role as chair of the Council of Europe, which would be an opportunity to influence how the European Convention on Human Rights works, he said.

"We're going to try to get some commonsense in at that end as well. Would I like to go further and faster? Yes, I have said so."

But Mr Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, defended the act at his party's conference.

'Lazy and incoherent'

Mr Huhne, the Lib Dem energy secretary, said: "If Conservative backbenchers persist in wanting to tear up the European Convention on Human Rights, then I can foresee a time when this party would be extremely uncomfortable in coalition," he said.

Shadow justice minister Sadiq Khan described scrapping the act as a "lazy and incoherent position to hold".

"When Tory ministers blame the Human Rights Act, it's usually an excuse not to sort out the problem or a cover for their own failing policies," he said.

He called on government to clarify the coalition's stance.

"Either the deputy prime minister has been overruled, or this is another fantasy policy from Theresa May."

Human rights organisation Liberty did not welcome the government's stance.

Director Shami Chakrabarti said: "Modern Conservatives should think again about human rights values that were truly Churchill's legacy.

"Only a pretty 'nasty party' would promote human rights in the Middle East whilst scrapping them at home."

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