UK Politics

Tory British Bill of Rights commissioner resigning

One of the government's commissioners examining whether a British Bill of Rights is needed has told BBC One's Sunday Politics show he is resigning.

Dr Michael Pinto-Duschinsky claims the commission is deliberately ignoring the wishes of Prime Minister David Cameron.

He told host Andrew Neil he had no alternative, as it was "so important" to make human rights "consistent with parliamentary sovereignty".

The Commission on a Bill of Rights said it was making "good progress".

Dr Pinto-Duschinsky said Justice Secretary Ken Clarke and other members of the commission had ignored his views and were not considering real change to current human rights laws.

"It is clear that it [the commission] has been intending all along to issue a report in favour of the status quo," he told Mr Neil.

"We have considered the issue of parliamentary sovereignty only once.


"The commission answers to Ken Clarke. He and Nick Clegg [deputy prime minister] set it up. His hands are everywhere."

He said Mr Clarke had followed the agenda of the human rights establishment, "sidelining not only Parliament but the prime minister, and I consider that to be disloyal".

But Mr Clarke said he had played "no part personally" in the workings and deliberations of the independent commission.

Image caption The Bill of Rights was part of the Coalition Agreement signed in May 2010

"I'm sorry that differences over process within the commission have led to Dr Pinto Duschinsky's resignation," he said.

"I hope it is now able to complete its task and produce its report towards the end of this year."

Dr Pinto-Duschinsky is one of eight commissioners brought together in March last year.

The government asked them to fulfil apledge in the Coalition Agreementto "investigate" a British Bill of Rights "incorporating and building on the European Convention on Human Rights".

A month previously, Mr Cameron had said it "was about time we started making sure decisions are made in this Parliament rather than in the courts".

In recent days, the seven other commissioners wrote a letter to Mr Clarke saying Dr Duschinsky's presence on the committee was "significantly impeding its progress".

Sir Leigh Lewis, a retired civil servant, is the chairman of the committee.

Welfare Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told Sunday Politics he was not aware what went on behind closed doors, but Sir Leigh was a "fair and decent" man.

"Sometimes when you attack public servants when they don't have the ability to defend themselves - it's a little unfair really," he said.

A spokeswoman for the commission said: "We have already discussed the issues of parliamentary sovereignty and democratic over-ride at length.

"The commission will issue its final report to government by the end of the year in accordance with its terms of reference."

The Ministry of Justice said it was aware of "internal difficulties" within the Commission on a Bill of Rights.

The issue of who has the final say over rulings of the European Court of Human Rights - Parliament or the court - has divided the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats for years.

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