Cameron pledges to scrap Human Rights Act in constitutional review

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Indy Politics

David Cameron will promise today that he would overhaul the British constitution by setting out plans for a US-style Bill of Rights.

He will denounce the existing Human Rights Act for "hampering the fight against crime and terrorism" and commit an incoming Tory government to scrapping it. It would be replaced by an American-style Bill of Rights that would strike a "common sense balance" between civil liberties and protecting public safety.

Under his plans, the Bill could only be amended by a joint vote of the Commons and Lords. The move, one of his first major policy announcements since becoming Tory leader, brought accusations from the Government of "muddled and dangerous" thinking.

Mr Cameron also opened a new front against the Government yesterday by challenging Gordon Brown to call a snap election if he succeeds Tony Blair in the near future.

The Human Rights Act incorporated the European Convention of Human Rights into British Law in 2000. Since then, it has provoked controversy, including claims that it entitles prisoners to receive pornography and helps young arsonists escape expulsion from school.

The Government has also considered amending the Act to prevent suspects from sidestepping anti-terror legislation and has registered alarm over its interpretation by judges.

Mr Cameron told BBC1's Sunday AM that the time had come to find a "constructive way forward".

"Let's look at getting rid of the Human Rights Act and saying instead of that, instead of having an Act that imports, if you like, a foreign convention of rights into British law, why not try to write our own British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, clearly and precisely into law, so we can have human rights with common sense."

Spelling out further details in a speech in London today, Mr Cameron will announce he will be appointing a panel of lawyers and constitutional experts to examine the case for the Bill of Rights.

He will say: "A modern British Bill of Rights needs to define the core values which give us our identity as a free nation. It should spell out the fundamental duties and responsibilities of people living in this country both as citizens and foreign nationals."

The Tory leader will argue the party does not want to pull out of the European convention, but believes the existence of "our even clearly stated statement of values" would make it easier when the European Court passes judgement that affect Britain. But Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, said Mr Cameron was "muddled" and would be creating "two competing sets of rights".

He said: "The idea is misconceived. Indeed, it is dangerous, because it would lead to more, not less, confusion about the best way to strike the balance between protecting the public and individual liberties."

Mr Cameron also told the BBC yesterday that there should be an early general election if Mr Blair stands down long before completing his third term.

"If there's a very early changeover and suddenly he's not running a full term, then people haven't got what they voted for and I think there'd be a very strong case for an early election," he said.

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