Exclusive: Tory proposals for “Bill of Rights”

 This will be announced tomorrow.  The text below was provided to me in circumstances where I was not bound by the “embargo”. It is in the public interest for this to be published as soon as possible and for these proposals to be subject to open and wide discussion, including expert analysis.  I apologise to any journalists whose copy was adversely affected by my disclosure; my intention was not to “scoop” any rival.  For completeness, I derive no commercial or financial benefit from this blog (there are not even adverts!).

 

European Court of Human Rights will lose its power to order change in Britain.

A majority Conservative Government will scrap Labour’s Human Rights Act, and will end the ability of the European Court of Human Rights to order changes to British laws.  Today the Conservatives are publishing a strategy paper which sets out how that will be achieved.

At the heart of the reform will be a new British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities that will restore common sense to the application of human rights in the UK. A draft of the Bill will be published for consultation before Christmas. Among other things the Bill will stop terrorists and other serious foreign criminals who pose a threat to our society from using human rights to prevent deportation. It will make it clear that people have clear responsibilities to society, and that there is a proper balance between rights and responsibilities in British law.

The Bill will remain faithful to the basic principles of human rights which the United Kingdom signed up to in the original European Human Rights Convention, but it will reverse the mission creep that has meant human rights law being used for more and more purposes, and often with little regard for the rights of society as a whole.

The new measure will:

  •  Repeal Labour’s 1998 Human Rights Act.
  •  Break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights. In future Britain’s courts will no longer be required to take into account rulings from the Court in Strasbourg. This will make our Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK.
  •  End the ability of the European Court to require the UK to change British laws. Every judgement against the UK will be treated as advisory and will have to be approved by Parliament if it is to lead to a change in our laws.
  •  Define much more clearly when and how Human Rights laws in the UK are to be applied. This will end the ability of the Courts to decide unilaterally to apply Human Rights laws to whole new areas of public life.
  •  Limit the use of Human Rights laws to the most serious cases. They will no longer apply in trivial cases.
  •  Balance rights and responsibilities. People who do not fulfil their responsibilities in society should not be able to claim so-called “qualified rights” in their defence in a court of law.
  •  Ensure that those who pose a national security risk to this country or have entered it illegally cannot rely on questionable human rights claims to prevent their deportation.

 

The plan provides a proper balance between the rights of citizens and their responsibilities in our society, and in particular to limit the ability of those who threaten British citizens or society to use human rights laws to protect their interests at the expense of the victims or potential victims.

It will protect basic rights, like the right to a fair trial, and the right to life, which are an essential part of a modern democratic society.

 

Examples of how the new law will be different include:

 

  •  Terrorists and serious criminals who pose a significant threat to the security and safety of UK citizens would lose their right to stay here under Human Rights Laws.
  •  People who commit serious crimes in the UK, and in doing so infringe upon the basic rights of others, should lose their right to claim the right to stay here under the right to family life. So for example, a foreign criminal, guilty of causing death by dangerous driving and so taking away the rights of another citizen, would not be able to claim family rights to stay in the UK.
  •  No one would be able to claim human rights to allow them to step outside the law that applies to all other citizens, for example a group of travellers claiming the right to family life to breach planning laws.
  •  The right to family life would be much more limited in scope. For example an illegal immigrant would not be able to claim the right to family life to stay in the UK because he had fathered children here when he is playing no active part in the upbringing of those children.
  •   Limit the reach of human rights cases to the UK, so that British Armed forces overseas are not subject to persistent human rights claims that undermine their ability to do their job and keep us safe.

 

The move follows widespread debate about the role of the European Court of Human Rights in UK matters and whether it has the right to overrule Parliament. Earlier this week the former Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge warned that “it would be a negation of the democratic process for Members of Parliament to be obliged to vote for a measure with which they disagree” if ordered to do so by Strasbourg.  He also states “ultimate sovereignty does not rest with the courts, but with Parliament.  What is more, in our arrangements, although Parliament is expected to respect a Treaty obligation, it is not bound to do so”.

Elsewhere in his article he says: “In my view in any country which embraces the principle of democracy, and certainly in the United Kingdom, ultimate authority over constitutional and societal questions is not vested in a body of judges, however wise and distinguished, and even if the system for their appointment is beyond criticism.” His move followed an assertion by the President of the Court that they had the right to overrule MPs.

The strategy paper and draft Bill have been drawn up by leading Conservative QCs following a series of extensive discussions with lawyers, academics and Parliamentarians.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:

“We cannot go on with a situation where crucial decisions about how this country is run and how we protect our citizens are taken by the European Court of Human Rights and not by our Parliament and our own courts. We also have to be much clearer about when human rights laws should be used, and that rights have to be balanced with responsibilities. People in this country are fed up with human rights being used as an excuse for unacceptable behaviour.

 

“We will always stand against real human rights abuses, and political persecution. But these plans will make sure that we put Britain first and restore common sense to human rights in this country.”

 

The Rt Hon Lord Howard of Lympne, CH, QC said:

“The argument is not about human rights, to which we all subscribe.   No, the argument today is whether arrangements such as the European Court of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act actually help to protect such rights or, by the way in which they have operated, bring the concept into disrepute.

“Certainly, the way in which the Convention on Human Rights has been interpreted is far removed from its founders’ intentions.

“We are simply restoring parliamentary sovereignty, and some much needed common sense, to our human rights laws.”

 

85 thoughts on “Exclusive: Tory proposals for “Bill of Rights””

  1. I want only one thing … the ability to withdraw my Consent to their Governance.

    Anything less is slavery … if I may not say “NO”, then I am governed by compulsion.

    1. The 18th century is on the line mate – they want their punctuation back!

      But addressing your point, Parliament (who are your representatives) do not have to ask the ECHR permission to withdraw from observance of the Convention. It is the UK government’s choice to be within the Convention scheme, affirmed by Parliament’s passing the HRA. The only reason why Parliament doesn’t repeal the Act and government denounce the Convention is because the former chooses not to – i.e. your representatives i.e. you choose not to.

    1. I would guess it is 8, the right to privacy.

      That’s the one that most upsets GCHQ, Home Office, and the Police. And their lawless chums in the telco industry. And spyware scumbags like Phorm.

      1. No it’s article 8 because it’s a campaign lead by Tabloid newspapers, and their main objection is that Article 8, the right to privacy damages their business model to make money from bullying people

  2. A majority Conservative Government

    You do not need to read any further. Are the Tories going to poll the 36% they did last time out? Unlikely. ZAre they going to poll the 42% or so they need for a majority (their highest Westminster poll rating for 23 years? No.

    That has been an impossible fantasy ever since Cameron blew the chance in 2009. That outcome is far more cast iron than Cameron’s guarantee.

    1. Im not so certain about that. lets assume for a second the Convseratives get the most seats but the not a majority (again) and once again team up with lib dems. The lib dems will either go along with it completetly or advocate a referendum. The pro-HRA/ECHR side will loose that referendum because they won’t be able to reverse the damage done by years of false information by the Sun/Mail/Express tories and at the same time stand against a unrestained campaign by the tories, ukip and right wing tabloid press.

      The question is momentum; if this policy fizzles out by the election, the tories may simply leave it on shelf to collect dust. However, if this becomes the certain piece of the election argument and the tories narrowly make it back in to power then they will keep pushing the idea plan through claim the electorate want some change to rights framework in the uk.

      1. When people voted lib-dem in the last election, they didn’t imagine the outcome would be a coalition with the tories. i still remember the shock and outrage! They aren’t the same party now that they were then, effectively, and have burned the goodwill that got them an unusually large turnout. A spent political force, imho.

        1. You need to remember to factor in the strength of feeling against Labour in Scotland at present, and how their vote may well take a sizeable hit.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a Tory majority in Westminster next year.

    1. Threating our right to pussy, the most sensible comment here. Amazing how conjecture is quoted as fact (or at least passed off as). When we have a government voted for by more than 90% of the public, or voting is made compulsory and we finally have it proven what most people think), then I will join the “real” debate.

  3. The way I see it is the UK government are looking for a a version of the US of A patriot act brought in by George Bush,that of course is only my opinion.

  4. Call me a stupid American, but if your “Bill of Rights” is an act of “restoring Parliamentary sovereignty”, you’re doing it wrong. The whole point of codifying rights in a constitutional manner is to prevent parliamentary overreach, not to enable it. This seems to be the sad end of a decade-long process in which the Tory commitment to a British Bill of Rights has swung from a project meant to protect individual liberties — from threats in Westminster as well as Strausbourg — to one meant to strip them bare before the will of the government of the day. It’s it telling that zero of those ten bullet points actually conssist of a positive assertion of rights?

    1. Summed it up perfectly. I particularly like the bit where they say that human rights won’t apply unless it’s a “serious case”. That opens the door for the Government to march a whole raft of regressive policies through Parliament to which there is no legal protection or redress.

      This Government has been more authoritarian than any I have ever lived through and I lived through the Thatcher government. No wonder John Redwood felt free to issue a naked threat to any business that didn’t tow the Conservative Party line on Europe.

    2. The original Bill of Rights was all about Parliamentary sovereignty. If we are going to say anything about what rights we enjoy today, we also have to make clear by what procedures and institutions we frame them. While I would like any new BoR to say a lot about actual human rights, I think it is legitimate for it to restate the position of Parliament.

      But there are the seeds of muddle in this. “Define much more clearly when and how Human Rights laws in the UK are to be applied” is putting it the wrong way round – the cases where rights do not apply must be limited and explicit. There is a risk that the BoR will be a document which professes reverence for our ancient ways and customs while making a 21st century mess of understanding them.

  5. Redrafting of any Human rights legislation affords the possibility of removing the anomaly which attempts to conflate religion (which is an opinion just as any other political view is – albeit a ridiculous one) with aspects of basic humanity like sex, sexuality, race .

    I look forward to this opportunity to correct the original category error made in the EDHR and the UNDHR. Religion(s) deserve no special consideration or legal protections in the way that, say, actual aspects of humanity do.

  6. I guess they want to force a return to expensive and delaying trips to the European court as happened before we adopted the human rights act –
    so they can then argue, “SEE, we need to get out of Europe!” – all in the name of denying British citizens rights that all sane intelligent people would demand if they ever found themselves wrongly arrested under some new bogus anti-terrorist laws that are constantly in the Tory mind…

    1. Nope. They just want to ignore the European Court altogether, and reduce the number of occasions on which a Human Rights defence can be mounted. As others have said it will also be interesting to see how many of the current provisions make it into the new proposals.

  7. So, they want to ignore Article 46 ECHR, I assume? I mean, this doesn’t say withdrawing from the convention, and it implies that the court will still make judgements, but will treat them as advisory. That just isn’t an option under article 46. Of course, no action will be taken unless two-thirds of the Committee of Ministers want there to be some action. But it’s basically saying “we believe that Parliament and Government should not have anyone but the public to hold them to account”, which sounds good and all, but is deeply problematic.

    The idea that human rights only apply in ‘serious’ cases is very troubling. No right to avoid self-incrimination if the crime you’re accused of isn’t serious? No right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment unless it’s ‘seriously’ degrading? Rights are rights, and apply to everyone at all times.

    Qualified rights to be abrogated in cases where a person has infringed the rights of others… so no fair trial? No freedom of thought, conscience and religion? It’s absurd. Once convicted of a crime that infringes the rights of others, you can be arbitrarily deprived of property?

    Does anyone, technically, “claim human rights to allow them to step outside the law that applies to all other citizens”? They use human rights arguments to argue that the law is not valid, not that they are exempt from it.

    It’s hideous and I can only hope that the public aren’t so swayed by the media that they think it’s an actual good thing.

    1. I wonder if there will be an Economic Growth Duty as in the Deregulation Bill where any ruling on human rights will have to be balanced against its economic impact? Human rights for those “hard working families trying to do the right thing” that deserve them but not for those considered an irresponsible burden on the state.

  8. Human rights is there to protect citizens against governments who overstep the mark, governing your own house as we have seen in Hoc, Police and several other spheres of power do not work and we need a check on anyone trying to abuse power whether it be now or in the future. leave well alone.

  9. The whole POINT of extra-territorial Human Rights jurisdiction is to put a brake on the ability of Governments to do exactly as they like to their citizens. They are designed thus to prevent another Nazi Germany situation.

    If Hitler was starting out today, job one would be to get out of the ECHR & regain the power to treat citizens as he wished witout any legal comeback.

    I’m not saying the frothing faction of the Tories want to be a dictatorship…but remember that they are also cutting legal aid; reducing citizens access to justice; restricting access to Judicial Review (preventing “unelected” UK judges telling the Government they are wrong); taking ever more direct control of the police (who are constitutionally independent of Govt in the UK model) and more.

    This is just SO wrong! Yes, there are issues with how ECHR case law has developed. The answer is to go back to the ECHR “legislature” (the Council of Europe) & negotiate/agree to some amendments to the ECHR to address them (as has been done many times before, such as with the ablition of the death penalty). There is no need to withdraw altogether

  10. @MoK: Yes, but a a Lib Dem coalition with them will give them another defacto majority. The Lib Dems have rolled over each and every time in this parliament and allowed the most insanely evil government in modern British history to operate unrestrained. Unless the Lib Dems grow a spine we’re going to get another unrestrained Tory government.

      1. Labour’s silence on this issue is deeply worrying. We’ve already had the odious Jack Straw saying he regrets the HRA and we have the ID card loving Yvette Cooper as shadow Home Secretary, so does the Opposition also regard human rights as disposable? We deserve an answer.

  11. I hoe you are right and that the Tory play for the core right-wing vote is as ineffective as you suggest, but this is playing with fire and will do endless damage to the UK’s international reputation and, worse still, will give succour to dictators and torturers everywhere. All for trying to recoup votes from UKIP.

  12. One of the many questions that bothers me is who decides what kind of case is ‘trivial’ and hence that human rights can’t apply. What is trivial to one person is not trivial to another – and what is trivial to the government is often far from trivial to the individual.

  13. This is quite remarkable, both in terms of the lack of intellect applied and the utter corruption evidenced by fear of UKIP and pandering to certain elements in the press. History may not repeat exactly, but there is no doubt that if you forget it you will repeat some fundamental features. So a straight motorway to fascism. Do they teach anything in Oxford to PPE students? I only ask because Ms Russell claimed that non-oxbridge universities were not teaching anything earlier this week at the conference.

  14. What an utter load of incoherent nonsense. Especially that about sovereignty. Are the WTO, or NATO, or the UN, constraining our sovereignty, given that they require us to follow certain policies if we want to remain a member – but member we can cease to be at any moment if Parliament just gives the word? How is the ECHR any different? (Actually arguably, HRA constraining implied repeal aside, it was government and not even Parliament which ratified the Convention, so it wouldn’t even require Parliament to denounce the Convention, merely government – which chooses not to!)

    And the rest was insanely incoherent as well, virtually everything stated either obtains already, or wouldn’t be possible within the Convention regime.

  15. The main thing this wishlist of regressive cobblers says to me is “Vote Labour and make sure the Tories never get to implement this”.

    1. Actually, it sounds exactly the sort of thing more recent Labour Home Secretaries would do. I’m not putting my human rights hopes in the hands of the Labour Party either.

  16. My alarm bells went off at the fourth bullet, saying that there are areas of public life where human rights laws do not apply.

    Well, alright, they were already ringing at the prospect of this government deciding what rights we should have.

  17. There are lots of misunderstandings about what the challenge to the HR law is about. The issue is the mis-application of it by sectors/individuals with a vested interest who distort the rules to suit own arguments. We’ve armed a mob of politically correct pests, and made millionaires out of dubious rights ‘lawyers’ who have rendered human rights a free for all, and made HR a cash cow to milk. Two very important terms were left out of the Human Rights Law, they are ‘common’ and ‘sense’. The laws no longer meet the criteria they were designed for, so need changing.

    1. “Common sense” simply means “things the person writing this agrees with. That’s why it’s left out of law, because as much as people who benefit from the status quo may bluster, the laws are not there to protect *them*. They’re there to protect other people *from* them.

  18. All that would mean is that anyone failing to get what they wanted under the UK courts system would go to the European Court of Human Rights again. Which would mean even more delay and cost.

  19. “…the Conservatives …….will restore common sense to the application of human rights ”

    Brought to you by a party having a member who tweets his member to an online unknown. Yeah.

  20. This makes me seriously consider emigration out of the UK despite my family being here since before the Romans… If we do not stop the proto-facist Tories in their tracks, I can see mass emigration increasing like it never has done before.

  21. The Conservatives want to reduce the number of rights UK citizens have by introducing a Bill of Rights. http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/key-issues-for-the-new-parliament/security-and-liberty/from-the-human-rights-act-to-a-bill-of-rights/

    English devolution is coming.

    http://www.cypnow.co.uk/digital_assets/549/Our-Plan-for-Government-V8-low-res.pdf

    We need Government to remove the barriers and brakes imposed by Whitehall departments and deliver an English Devolution settlement between local and national government. Wherever possible, we need to see choices about spending public money and delivering services made by those closest to those decisions.

  22. In reply to Tom Bernal the answer is surely obvious. No case is trivial. Prosecution for speeding or parking is certainly serious for the person involved.
    What happened to the basic principle of equality before the law?

  23. I wonder how they plan to define “foreign criminal”?

    If my wife, who is Canadian by birth but also holds a British passport, was to cause death by dangerous driving, could they deport her? What if she didn’t pay her TV license? What if she held a French passport and had lived and worked here for 20 years but didn’t have a British passport? Any rights?

    I’m assuming they’ll have the ability to determine arbitrarily whether or not you’re British enough to benefit from human rights. Born in Britain but suspected of terrorism abroad? No rights, presumably. Britishness rescinded by order of HM Govt.

    Where does it end?

    1. There’re legal definitions of ‘foreign criminal’ in the UK Borders Act 2007 and the Immigration Act 2014. Basically someone who isn’t a British citizen, is convicted in the UK, and has been sentenced to 12 months or more or matching certain other offending patterns (I think the acts differ slightly here).

  24. The reliance on polls about who is going to get a majority in parliament is alarming and quite possibly anti democratic and incredibly complacent.
    There are non voters & people with a less than wholly loyal commitment to the parties they join or even are elected to parliament to represent.
    As some commenters have noted the inclusion of ‘Conservative majority’ which is not just a psephological (cant spell it) calculation but is it also a political pitch to eurosceptic members of other parties.
    Could such a phrase induce unknowns to vote on confusion around ‘europe’

  25. Does anyone believe this mission creep into even more reliance on ministers peddling terrorism to unwanted laws, increasing the influence of Westminster to politicise useful checks and balances? The ultimate arbiters are the people, and the ECHR has more credibility with us than pro censorship, let’s find the shortest path to rash decisions, here today gone tomorrow politicians.

  26. For causing death by dangerous driving, we’re looking at a 2 year sentence. The first step would be to conclude that it was conducive to the public good to deprive her of British ctizenship and so deprive her. Then, in the absence of Article 8, she would be a foreign national and automatically deported. The first step is not automatic, and it was alleged that the power was only asked for to prevent a narrow reading of powers intended for terrorism, serious damage to the country’s interest and serious organised crime. Rolf Harris is a dual national at a greater risk – he has no obvious Article 8 protection. I’ve not heard he’s to be stripped of British nationality and deported to Austrlia.

    There is a higher deportation threshold for EU nationals than for non-EU nationals.

  27. This is deeply worrying and wrong-headed. See here for a good article on why this is wrong: http://eulawanalysis.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/the-worst-of-all-possible-worlds.html

    Part of the problem is that the Lord Chancellor / Justice Secretary is not a lawyer. As a jobbing politician, he does not like the lawyers and judges sometimes holding him back from doing what wants in the way that he wants. He has no respect for the rule of law, as the cuts to legal aid and restrictions on judicial review demonstrate.

    It would be nice to think we have moved away from the elected dictatorship, but this shows that is a fantasy. We need a proper written constitution.

  28. When human rights laws were a licence to exploit free speech AND Human rights, then rightly it needs re-appraisal. The European system of Human Rights is plain ridiculous now and gives cover and oxygen to murders,killers, rapists, and terrorists, and really any sort of crime against us you can come up with. Freedom of movement also enables the scum of the world to walk straight into the UK, convicted Killers from Europe can go where they please. and unless you only read ‘rights weekly’ (!) We are searching Europe for yet another one. Had we control over the law he wouldn’t have got anywhere near the UK. Giving criminals a right to vote, when they are the very people who took away the rights of others is also a ridiculous situation. Once you commit the crime you abandon your right, they get 3 meals a day and TV, in some quarters that is more than they deserve. European views are why that continent spent the last 100 years in war of one kind or another, 2 world wars since 1914, Bosnia etc And they want Turkey of all people who rubber stamp terrorists entry to Europe as part as well. Maybe the lunatics already run the European asylum but we have to look after our own people in the case of Europe that doesn’t care. This is right layer claptrap, and from the people who most profit from it all, less interested in real rights, VERY interested in what they can make out of it.

  29. Whilst i agree that those who enter this country often illegally in the back of a lorry should not be allowed to remain here after being convicted of serious crimes, and the minority of extremists like abu hamsa who preach their hatred of the west, but hate it so much that they fight deportation tooth and nail, should be deported without it taking months or years, i also agree with those so called British citizens who travel to war zones to fight our troops being stripped of their citizenship and deported
    And criminals on remand who refuse to go to court should have their case dealt with in their absence, or be taken to court by force if necessary unlike the current situation which is a joke

    But i do support other aspects of the human rights bill , this is typical of the tories to take things from one extreme to another

  30. BEWARE! The withdrwal from the Human Rights Act is a smokescreen. The Tories say they will replce with a British Bill of Rights, which is exactly what they want. The Bill of Rights under the Tories will take away the right for workers to take industrial action, will take away the right of ordinary people to protest. Just look at what Grayling has done with Legal Aid, no more affordable chances to take legal action against an injustice. Courts only for the rich. Think about it!!

  31. For possible interest, let me refer you to:

    ‘It’s not a British bill of rights we need, but to move away from human rights altogether’

    http://theconversation.com/its-not-a-british-bill-of-rights-we-need-but-to-move-away-from-human-rights-altogether-42498#comment_686844

    Professor Hugh V. McLachlan
    Department of Social Sciences, Media and Journalism
    Glasgow School for Business and Society
    Glasgow Caledonian University

    H.McLachlan@gcu.ac.uk

    http://www.gcu.ac.uk/gsbs/staff/professorhughmclachlan/

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