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Sunday 10 May 2015

Tory Human Rights Charade Again

Young Dave and his jolly good chaps, it seems, intend to strike while the iron is hot and include proposals for all sorts of proper spiffing genuinely Conservative legislation in the upcoming Queen’s Speech. The list will include the abolition of the Human Rights Act (HRA) in favour of a British Bill Of Rights, which will supposedly be more wonderful, and not just because the Tories’ press pals have been baying for it.
The Sun has been ecstatic in its editorial today: it calls Michael “Oiky” Gove “a shrewd choice to be in charge of abolishing the Human Rights Act … This bonkers law puts the rights of terrorists, foreign lags and illegal immigrants on a pedestal ahead of the rights of the British people … It has to go”. But there was, as Captain Blackadder might have observed, only one thing wrong with this idea - it was bollocks.

Creepy Uncle Rupe’s loyal attack doggies were not so full of themselves last October after it transpired the Police had been using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) in order to get hold of phone records which told them who had been communicating with non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn. That was an abuse of, er, their human rights. They then claimed the Tories’ new law would protect journalists.
But then Theresa May, who has been confirmed as continuing in her previous role as Home Secretary, is going to re-introduce her “Snoopers’ Charter”. And this is important: while the Sun, and many other Tory cheerleaders, want to crow about how wonderful this move is, the reality is that everyone has rights, and for a very good reason. Once again, I turn to Lord Bingham’s explanation, and its concluding question.

Let me briefly remind you of the protected rights, some of which I have already mentioned.

The right to life.
The right not to be tortured or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The right not to be enslaved.
The right to liberty and security of the person.
The right to a fair trial.
The right not to be retrospectively penalised.
The right to respect for private and family life.
Freedom of thought,conscience and religion.  Freedom of expression.
Freedom of assembly and association.
The right to marry.
The right not to be discriminated against in the enjoyment of those rights.
The right not to have our property taken away except in the public interest and with compensation.
The right of fair access to the country’s educational system.
The right to free elections.

Which of these rights, I ask, would we wish to discard? Are any of them trivial, superfluous, unnecessary? Are any them un-British? 

There may be those who would like to live in a country where these rights are not protected, but I am not of their number.

Human rights are not, however, protected for the likes of people like me – or most of you. They are protected for the benefit above all of society’s outcasts, those who need legal protection because they have no other voice – the prisoners, the mentally ill, the gipsies, the homosexuals, the immigrants, the asylum-seekers, those who are at any time the subject of public obloquy”.

And if all these rights are to be included as part of the mooted British Bill Of Rights, the question must be put: what would then be the point in abolishing the HRA, other than a combination of satisfying the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate, and a slice of petty political point-scoring?

Because human rights are not something to be awarded or withdrawn at the behest of the tabloid rabble-rousers. They are, by definition, a protection against such behaviour, a protection for the weak against the excess of the strong, something that marks out a society as tolerant, inclusive, fair, and, yes, liberal.

Rupert Murdoch may favour their removal. So might some of what Robin Day so memorably - and rightly - called “here today and gone tomorrow politicians”. But the Government should make law on behalf of all the people, not just those who work in the service of News UK and Associated Newspapers.

Abolishing the HRA would be most unwise. It is to be hoped that the new Government will understand this, and act accordingly.


Arnold said...

British judges are an independent lot. I really can't see them abandoning the principles of the HRA.

Roy Gillett said...

Here's what I don't get.
The rights that the right wing are so keen on abolishing aren't actually guaranteed by the HRA. They are guaranteed by the many and various treaties that comprise the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The HRA simply brings the treaty into UK law but abolishing it won't affect them.
So is the government intending to withdraw from the ECHR?
IT wouldn't surprise me.

Arnold said...

Roy.I think that going to the ECHR is expensive and time consuming. The Government may be hoping to extradite people first.
I wonder how long it will be before Gove describes the whole legal profession as The Blob?

Pam Smith said...

An article in the Telegraph today (of all places) points out that the right to appeal to the European Court comes not from the HRA but our membership of the European Convention and withdrawing from that would cause huge constitutional difficulties, since

"The Acts of Parliament giving power to the Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh Assembly presuppose Britain's membership of the Convention, as does the 1998 Belfast Good Friday Agreement. If Britain left the Convention, these would have to be amended.

... that would be possible as a matter of strict law. However, under the 1998 Sewel Convention (which would apply with equal force to Northern Ireland and probably to Wales): “Westminster will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters in Scotland without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.” In other words, withdrawing Britain from the Convention would for all practical purposes require the consent of each of the separate nations of the UK."


Good luck with that, Mike. I don't think the well paid, independent-minded legal profession will be quite as sensitive to your name calling as the teachers who cowered under the permanent state of revolution you introduced via an increasingly punitive Ofsted regime and forced academisation.