Scrapping the Human Rights Act will 'restore' Magna Carta's legacy, says David Cameron

The PM says the idea of human rights have been 'devalued'

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Indy Politics

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 Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Prime Minister David Cameron, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh seated by the Magna Carta memorial at Runnymede, near Egham, Surrey, ahead of a ceremony to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the accord.

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.

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.