Human rights law has “devalued” the legacy of the Magna Carta in Britain’s legal system, David Cameron has claimed.
In a speech at Runnymede to mark the charter’s 800th anniversary the prime minister will argue that his government will “restore” the charter’s status with its planned law changes.
“Magna Carta takes on further relevance today. For centuries, it has been quoted to help promote human rights and alleviate suffering all around the world,” he said.
“But here in Britain, ironically, the place where those ideas were first set out, the good name of ‘human rights’ has sometimes become distorted and devalued.
“It falls to us in this generation to restore the reputation of those rights – and their critical underpinning of our legal system.”
The Conservatives want to scrap the Human Rights Act (HRA) and have threatened to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). They say they will replace the HRA with a British Bill of Rights.
The Magna Carta was an agreement that the King would guarantee the nobility and the feudal system they ruled over certain rights.
The charter, signed by King John, was systematically ignored as soon as it was signed and was annulled in the same year by Pope Innocent III on request of the monarch. Its significance in English law varied through the centuries.
The charter’s reputation was boosted in the 17th century when it was adopted by revolutionaries and reformers as a historical symbol of limits on the power of monarchs.
“It is our duty to safeguard the legacy, the idea, the momentous achievement of those barons. And there couldn’t be a better time to reaffirm that commitment than on an anniversary like this,” Mr Cameron said of the Magna Carta.
Mr Cameron’s plan to strip out human rights legislation has faced criticism from both within and without his party.
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
1/8 Welfare payments will be slashed
One of the most controversial parts of the Conservative manifesto was to cut benefits for the working age poor by £12 bn over the next three years. But during the campaign they only said where £2 bn of these savings would come from. That leaves £10 bn still to find. Some experts think the only way they can close that gap is by means testing child benefit – with millions of families losing out
2/8 There will be tax cuts for those in work and those who die
The Tories will increase the threshold at which the 40p rate of tax becomes payable to £50,000 by 2020. They haven’t said so but it is also likely that at some point in the next five years they will abolish that 45p rate of tax altogether for the highest earners. They also want to increase the effective inheritance tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1m
3/8 There will be an in/out EU referendum in 2017
The next two years are going to be dominated by the prospect of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. First off David Cameron has the daunting task of negotiating a deal with other EU leaders an acceptable deal that he can sell to his party so he can go into the referendum campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote. This may be unachievable and it is possible that the Tories may end up arguing to leave. Opinion polls show Britain is divided on EU membership, one poll this year showed 51% said they would opt to leave compared to 49% who would vote to stay in
4/8 There will be more privatisation of the NHS
Having won the election the Tories now have a mandate to go further and faster reforming the NHS. In order to make cost savings there is likely to be greater private involvement in running services, while some smaller hospitals may lose services they currently provide like A&E and maternity units
5/8 There will be many more free schools – and traditional state schools will become a thing of the past
The Tories plans to create 500 new free schools and make 3,000 state schools become academies. They will also carry on reforming the Department of Education and remove more powers from local authorities over how schools are run
6/8 On shore wind farms will be a thing of the past and fracking will be the future
Government spending on renewable energy is under real threat now the Lib Dems are no longer in power with the Tories. Subsidies are likely to be slashed for off-shore wind farm and other green energy supplies. Meanwhile there will be generous tax break for fracking as ministers try and incentivise the industry to drill for onshore oil and gas
7/8 There maybe more free childcare – but not necessarily
In the campaign the Tories pledged to double the amount of free early education for three- and four-year-olds from 15 hours a week to 30. The extra hours would only be offered to working families where parents are employed for at least eight hours a week. However they have not said where the money will come from to fund the pledge
8/8 Workers' rights could be reduced
The Tories want to slash business regulation, merge regulator and cut costs. The Lib Dems stopped them from reducing the employment rights of workers in power – but these are now under threat
The PM’s own former attorney general Dominic Grieve QC told a Franco-British Council meeting last week that Mr Cameron’s plans would make the ECHR “inoperable”.
“Even our tabloid press will occasionally take interest in the state of Russian police stations or Romanian orphanages,” he said.
While he was leader of the Labour party Ed Miliband said human rights laws “protect the weak from the strong” and that he was proud of them.
The establishment of the ECHR was spearheaded by the Conservatives the aftermath to the Second World War to safeguard rights across Europe.
The Human Rights Act 1998 implements these rights domestically and ensures that all arms of the British state abide by them.