Tories drop protest on rights law plan

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The Independent Online
The Conservative Party has dropped its opposition to government plans to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into British law, it emerged last night.

The issue is the first of many on which the new Opposition must decide how to react to the plans of the Labour government. Many Tory MPs believe that they cannot continue to peddle the set of policies on which they lost the election so drastically.

The move followed a row in the Shadow Cabinet during which Michael Howard, the former home secretary, argued that the party's earlier stance on the subject should be maintained.

Mr Howard lost the argument, and the Opposition's amendment to the proposal in the Queen's Speech to incorporate the convention was very mild on the subject. It said the Opposition believed "that the implications of the Government's proposal to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into British law should be carefully examined."

But Mr Howard, who closed the Home Affairs debate in the House of Commons for the Opposition earlier this week, took a slightly stronger line.

"We are not persuaded that incorporating the Convention into British law is either necessary or desirable," he said. "Incorporation would mean that judges might find themselves having to make what are essentially political decisions. In any event, human rights in Britain are not under threat, even after the election of a Labour government, but the sovereignty of Parliament is under threat and incorporation of the Convention would be a further blow to that sovereignty."

He quoted the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, as saying that the move would involve a very significant transfer of power to the judges. Some Conservative backbenchers also oppose the change of policy.