Monday, 17 May 2010

The First Tory Promise to be Broken

I wonder how many votes the Tories acquired from those who believed their promise that they would replace the act with a UK Bill of Rights.

For some time now many have been concerned that the Human Rights Act is too easily exploited by the undeserving over those it was designed to protect. I am one of those people who considers it protects criminal more than innocent people.

But Ken Clarke, now head of the Ministry of Justice, has suggested this was not high on the list of actions by the new government while the pledge was notable by its absence in the coalition agreement published this week.

Mr Clarke said: “We are not committed to leaving the European Convention on Human Rights, we have committed ourselves to a British Human Rights Act.

“We are still signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights.

“I have also got to see when the coalition agreement is completed how high a priority this is going to be given.”

This was a major pledge in the Tory manifesto and I trust tory voters will ensure the new Prime Minister is aware just how cheated they feel.


Lallands Peat Worrier said...

Starting point - we fundamentally disagree on this, I think, Subrosa. Best to posit that as a given.

Secondly, I'm not sure if I agree that this was a major Conservative pledge exactly. Certainly, the Tory manifesto clearly stated they would repeal the Human Rights Act - the rest of the sentence certainly promised a British Bill - but what might be in such a Bill was left totally without detail. Due to this vagueness, I'm going to be cheeky and not let you away with generalities. Point to specific instances where the Human Rights Act has been objectionable in its enforcement and has "protected criminals more than innocent people". I won't ask you for the bit of the Tory policy which seems better. There is no point, because there is no Tory policy on what should be in and what should be out of a British Bill of Rights. I'm not saying that potentially objectionable interpretations under HRA 1998 don't exist - but we can't have a discussion if you don't specify.

On one level though, you must be right. After all, people accused of no crime do not stray into courts have no need of a right to fair trial, their liberty not generally being at stake. Few would regard that as a stunning indictment of the Act & the Convention, however.

Without disclosing a level of detail, I'm not sure how you can regard any Bill of Rights as a necessarily beneficial development. Particularly because the Tories aren't going to leave the Council of Europe. They could. But they wont. The European Convention on Human Rights, after all, was largely drafted by British lawyers. It would seem churlish and odd to suddenly claim that it is "UnBritish" or somesuch.

Here is the crux. In international law, they have no way to 'lower' standards of rights protection which Britain is signed up to. A British Bill of Rights could attempt to roll back the recognition of international human rights norms in domestic law - but ultimately, if the UK doesn't observe the standards of the Convention, they'll still have to pay up. So what is the benefit of that in the long run?

Thirdly, and to indulge in a rare defence of the Tories - the electorate simply didn't give the Tories sufficient votes to bring this policy into effect. No votes, no vote on the Human Rights Act. It seems iffy to me to blame them for failing to realise a policy which voters themselves put party in an electoral position which they couldn't realise.

Indyanhat said...

I'm afraid I have to agree with LPW if only in the last issue of the Tories NOT having a clear majority to carry out their proposals. However I think it somewhat disengenuous to suggest there have been no examples of the Human rightds act intruding on our world , many instances have been heralded inthe papers their detail mostly escapes me at present ( 1 and 1/2 bottles of home made wine do that to my memory ) but charlie Bronson the convicted murderer was I believe trying to use the HRA as a means to get out as have several other cases, including such things as criminals in jail claiming their HR are being abused as they are not supplied with Heroin etc etc

Tory Totty Online said...

Oh God - cant think of anything particularly high-brow to say Sb (still jet-lagged) but entirely agree with you my friend ;-)

subrosa said...

Lallands, as you know I don't write essays. I outline controversial subjects and this is one of them.

Why should criminals get taxpayers' money for what is now considered to be against their rights? I'm not going to detail the many cases which have appalled me but one was the slopping out 'discrimination'. There are plenty elderly in this country who still 'slop out' because they're unable to have help get to the bathroom. That's obviously against their human rights that they have to use a chanty but we never hear about them. I do. The little contribution I make towards society these days lets me see how so many have few human rights, yet we have an expanding number of lawyers who are hell bent on making a very profitable living from those who shout loudest.

Truthfully I cannot comment on the tories replacement law as I have as yet not sighted it. Yet hopefully it wouldn't have 'lowered' standards but made them fairer to all.

Yes I'm aware the tories didn't get the votes. It's just sad that they've given up this major manifesto commitment.

Then again, I support the idea of human rights for all. In this country that doesn't reach to our armed forces when they are deployed out of this country. Is that fairness? Not in my book.

subrosa said...

Indyan, this Act is translated in so many ways. I could say my human rights are breeched because a lump of my pension was stolen by Gordon Brown. Something I saved for all my working life. Yet nobody is interested in that, it's not news, I'm not a criminal.

Yes I do agree with Lallands on legal points, but I think the Act could be better formed to protect the innocent more.

subrosa said...

Yoohoo TT. Just back? You lucky lady. Do hope you had a great time. I feel I need a really good break but hopefully I'll manage at the end of summer.

Mrs Rigby said...

I'm not sure it it's the Bill of Rights itself that's at fault, it's the way it's been allowed to be interpreted and implemented - to benefit some, and not others. The Gary McKinnon case could well be an example of this, but I'm far from being an expert.

Don't forget the last lot were told not to store DNA & associated data but ignored the ruling - they deliberately chose which bits of the Act to use, and which to ignore.

We're less than a week into the new government, maybe we should give them a bit of time to get their feet properly under the table and see what they actually do. And, of course, we weren't party to the coalition discussions - this is very new politics for most people, built on compromise and negotiation instead of one-sided diktat. It's quite scary isn't it?

subrosa said...

The last lot did much against the advice of experts Mrs R. All will be revealed in time. :)

It's scary but also exciting. If it works then that's politics changed in this country and the liberals will always be in government even though they have a much smaller share of the vote than tories and labour. That's what is scary.

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