A British Bill of Rights?

Michael Gove is back and has been appointed Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice in the first all-Conservative cabinet in 18 years. The man who once described members of the education profession as “the Blob” and who openly supported capital punishment, has been given the task of repealing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a British Bill of Rights.

But before we get into why I oppose this move, we shall first explore the origins of the 1998 Human Rights Act. After the atrocities of the Second World War, the Allied Powers came together and declared “never again”. The Council of Europe drafted the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, commonly known as the European Convention on Human Rights. The Convention aims to protect basic rights and freedoms across Europe, its composition was inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since then, the Convention has made its way into the statue books, enabling claimants to challenge the government in domestic courts; rather than submitting a claim to Strasbourg (where the European Court of Human Rights is located).

Since then, it has protected the most vulnerable in our society. It has protected women and children from abusive partners, ordered the deletion of DNA files on innocent people and has curtailed the ‘Bedroom Tax’ from hitting the vulnerable. And although it may be unpopular with the right wing tabloids, the Convention is best demonstrated in protecting the rule of law. Even the rights of suspects are protected under the Convention, preventing terror suspects from deportation where they will almost certainly face inhumane treatment.

Reasons why a British Bill of Rights should be opposed:

  1. A British Bill of Rights rushed up by the Conservatives would result in a botched document that will fail to protect the rights and freedoms we all take for granted in the United Kingdom.
  2. It would restrict the levels of judicial oversight on the government.
  3. It will conflict with the ECHR, meaning we would have to withdraw (joining Belarus which has a poor human rights record).
  4. It has nothing to do with losing Parliamentary sovereignty to the EU. The EU has little to do with the Convention, despite the Tory press office tweeting otherwise.

What can I do to prevent the repeal of the HRA?

  1. Lobby, lobby, lobby. Make sure you get in contact with your Member of Parliament about this issue, and stress the importance of keeping the Human Rights Act.
  2. Did I mention lobbying? Don’t forget to write to the House of Lords too. Professor Russell highlights the role Lib Dem peers may play in opposing a repeal.
  3. Sign a petition, or two. Here >> www.keeptheact.uk
  4. Make a fuss!

Just for the record — I don’t oppose a British Bill of Rights in principle. I oppose the government playing party politics over our freedoms. A British Bill of Rights should extend upon the rights guaranteed in the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights, not take them away.