British Bill of Rights commission fails to reach agreement

 
Houses of Parliament One commission member resigned after alleging it paid insufficient attention to the role of Parliament

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A commission set up to resolve political rows over the future of human rights in the UK has failed to reach unanimous conclusions.

A majority of the Commission on a Bill of Rights, set up as part of the coalition agreement, says the UK should have new legislation on rights.

They warn of a "lack of ownership" of the current Human Rights Act and the European system related to it.

Two of the nine members said nothing was wrong with the current regime.

They accuse other members of the commission of proposing a bill of rights as an attempt to start "decoupling" the UK from Europe.

The 1950 European Convention on Human Rights is a treaty to protect human rights and freedoms in Europe, overseen by European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The UK's 1998 Human Rights Act brought into UK law the convention, so anyone taking a case out could have them heard in UK courts without a lengthy wait to get a Strasbourg hearing.

The commission was chaired by retired civil servant Sir Leigh Lewis and included four legal experts appointed by David Cameron, whose Conservatives back replacing the Human Rights Act with a bill of rights, and four by Nick Clegg, whose Lib Dems insist the act must stay.

'Useless'

Its terms of reference made clear that any new bill would have to "incorporate and build on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights".

Sir Leigh said the the majority believed a British Bill of Rights would come to be seen as "owned by this country, by the people of this country, by the Parliament of this country".

European Court rulings: At-a-glance

The headquarters of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg
  • Founded: 1959
  • Headquarters: Strasbourg, France
  • Official languages: English, French
  • Run by: Council of Europe - Europe's human rights body
  • Consists of: 46 judges - one from each of the countries that have signed up to the European Human Rights Convention.
  • Biggest single source of cases pending on 1 Jan 2012: Russia

Profile compiled by BBC Monitoring

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling told the Commons he would give careful consideration to the findings on the "creation of a British Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures these rights continue to be enshrined in British law, and protects and extends British liberties".

One of the two dissenters, Professor Philippe Sands, told BBC Radio 4's the World at One that one of their concerns had been that the majority "couldn't agree on what should be in a Bill of Rights and they couldn't even agree on whether or not it should be based on the European Convention".

Prof Sands added: "We were told in no uncertain terms Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland do not want to have a United Kingdom Bill of Rights. There were no ifs and buts, it was across the political spectrum."

But Anthony Speaight, a Conservative Party member of the commission, said: "Seven of the nine members of the commission are in principle in favour of a UK Bill of Rights written in language which reflects the distinctive history and heritage of the countries within the UK, and is different from the Human Rights Act.

"They consider that, whilst the mechanisms of any such Bill of Rights should be broadly similar to those in the Human Rights Act, there may be scope for some specific changes.

"Some of us believe it could usefully define more clearly the scope of some rights and adjust the balance between different rights."

For Labour, shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan described the commission, which cost £700,000, as a waste of money and said it was a "classic political fudge, designed to paper over the cracks within the Tory-led government".

He said: "The Human Rights Act is our Bill of Rights, and already provides legal protection against torture and slavery, and enshrines in law the right to liberty, to open and fair justice and to protest. It upholds freedom of speech, the right to a private life and to religious freedoms.

"The Human Rights Act was always intended to be a living bill of rights and it's important that it continues to reflect changing society."

One of its members, Dr Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, quit in March after deciding it was a waste of time.

He described the commission's conclusions as a "very vague report, because people couldn't agree on anything specific".

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 256.

    @255. Trout Mask Replica

    Which individual rights do you think should be protected from both other individuals and, most importantly, the state?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 255.

    I resume those that object to the ECHR and HRA must approve of state sanctioned torture, imprisonment without judicial process, invasion of privacy, state controlled press and many other oppressions of freedom and personal liberties. If they agree they do want these freedoms why then do they object to codifying these freedoms in an agreed international standard that is updated with changing norms?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 254.

    has anyone of these right whingers have even read the human rights act? are they just angry because the daily fail told them to be angry?

    here is the human rights act. which one do you disagree with?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Convention_on_Human_Rights

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 253.

    252.Bradford
    9 Minutes ago

    It seems that you do. You have plenty of scope to work on.

    -----

    I think I've got the basics. Take the language used by your own perceived political enemies & turn it against them.

    Hence such gems as liberal-nazis & neo-liberals.

    Basically try to equate anyone who doesn't fall in with your political views with an extreemist movement from history.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 252.

    251. Jack Napier
    You live and learn.

    It seems that you do. You have plenty of scope to work on.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 251.

    245.Bradford
    11 Minutes ago
    237. Jack Napier

    I don't read tabloids, but I would stereotype you as one of those liberals who are actually quite totalitarian

    -----

    Being concerned with the governments determination to implement secret trials makes me totalitarian?

    Well,well.

    You live and learn.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 250.

    Erm. the tories removed the Right to Silence.
    The Labour lot set aside Magna Carta to allow police to deal with citizens differently(2004 Act). Crush your property for a traffic offence??
    Enter YOUR home without a warrant. removing "double jeopardy" in order to allow conviction of men already found Not Guilty in Lawrence case?
    And you really think politicians interested in YOUR Rights?
    Dream on!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 249.

    polititians and parliment is the last place you would want to be involved in a bill of rights. we dont have and hopefuly will never have a written consittution. the laws of the land have evlolved over the years from courts asking the questions and the law lords providing the answers. you only have to look at egypt to realise what happens when polititions become involved

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 248.

    What's the point of having rights, when you can’t afford to exercise it? The main problem with the UK is the substantial amount it costs to go to court. The average court case to take all the way to the Supreme Court cost around £70,000. However the journey to Strasbourg isn't going to be cheap as chips either

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 247.

    @196 - you still haven't answered the question posed by Keith Burtons

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 246.

    I am fed up with all my rights, I want, I need some responsibilities.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 245.

    237. Jack Napier

    I don't read tabloids, but I would stereotype you as one of those liberals who are actually quite totalitarian

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 244.

    Thin end of the wedge, This is a Tory attempt to remove us from Human Rights Protection. I work in the Prison Service and it can be sickening when you see how something noble has been twisted by shyster legal aid lawyers.But you have to take the bad with the good.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 243.

    Brit politicians are quite happy with the status quo (just a brief illusion of democracy).
    We definitely need a written Constitution with amendments which list exactly what Government MAY NOT DO!
    THe USA has that. OF course the USA had far seeing freedom fighters to ensure their system.
    Politicos in GB never likely to agree to REAL democrcay
    as they have ensured MPs above the law!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 242.

    Shami Chakrabarti's states (sky news) the inquiry majority would "replace human rights with citizens' privileges that can be stripped away by government." Ergo, the government determins who has the rights. It sounds like a pre-requisite for stripping persons not deemed worthy of rights by the tories. Who would they be I wonder - disabled, benefits claimants, civil servants, Doctors, Students...

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 241.

    If they are to protect the majority, then Human Rights cannot be applied on the basis of whether we like the person. That said, however, I struggle to apply this as a philosophy, when an individual has patently shown no respect for the human rights of others. Eg child molesters/murderers, or let's say someone entering my home without my consent, they would leave their rights at the door, believe!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 240.

    Be very afraid, if cameron has his way our human rights will be just a memory. What next? a UK equivalent of the hated US Patriot Act followed by the removal ,of Habeas Corpuse because it is "inconvenient"nfor the executive. This government can't be trusted with the NHS or employment rights. Write and complain to your MP saying any attempt by government to ditch human rights is not an option!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 239.

    How come all or most of the other 46 signatories to the ECHR don't appear to have the same problems in complying with its requirements or the rulings of the court that the UK appears to have? It's even more bizarre considering the fact that it was British lawyers that wrote the ECHR in the first place and the treaty setting it up was the Treaty of London!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 238.

    If HRA were repealed, that would, I think, mean all the rulings based on it would be void.

    One of these is that accrued pension rights are a person's private property within the meaning of that Act.

    That could mean Receivers once again could use company pension funds to defray creditors in bankruptcy.

    I think that's the key item the tories are trying to smuggle past the voters here.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 237.

    234.Bradford
    It is a joke & has led to an entitlement culture, compensation culture, perverse equality where it doesn't exists.

    ----

    There have been problems with the ECHR (though not nearly as many as your daily tabloid wants you to believe.)

    On the other hand our own government wants to introduce secret courts.

    Makes you wonder what the anti-ECHR lobby is actually after...

 

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