Liberal nonsense or essential protection? Our panellists battle it outby Martin Howe, Dominic Grieve / December 10, 2014 / Leave a comment
Should we scrap the Human Rights Act?
The United Kingdom ratified the European Convention on Human Rights in 1953, and the Human Rights Act 1998 incorporated it into domestic law, saying that British courts must “take into account” the decisions made at Strasbourg. But UK governments have repeatedly come into conflict with those decisions—over the deportation of Abu Qatada, prisoners’ enfranchisement and the right of illegal immigrants to a family life in the face of deportation. Is it time to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights?
Next year’s 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta reminds us that the UK has the longest and deepest culture of the protection of rights and respect for liberty of any country. This was born out of struggle and conflict but became so entrenched over the centuries that it became an unspoken and assumed right of British citizens to live under laws that preserved our liberties, with courts and judges who would put the law first and, unlike in many other countries, not be told what to do by government.
After the Second World War we played a full part in creating a European Convention on Human Rights, whose main purpose was to provide a benchmark of liberties for democratic societies and a bulwark against a slide back into totalitarianism. But sadly, in the 65 years since the convention was drafted, a militant and activist European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg has transformed it out of all recognition. It has created many new doctrines that are not in the convention, or that are clearly contrary to its text and what the states who drafted it intended—for example, the claim that the convention confers a right on prisoners to vote.
In this country we respect the rule of law, and defying a court—even an international court—makes us uneasy. But what if the threat to the rule of law comes from the court itself, through the persistent failure of its judges to respect the convention which they were entrusted with applying?
The Human Rights Act of the last Labour government…