Human Rights Act will not be axed, says Falconer

The Government's review of the laws which safeguard individual freedom will not result in it scrapping the Human Rights Act, the Lord Chancellor has said.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton confirmed that ministers may bring in a new law to ensure that the Act, which incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law in 1998, does not endanger the safety of the public. But he tried to head off criticism from civil liberties groups by insisting that he would not tear up the Act. He said that the problem was not the Act itself but the way it was being interpreted.

He said the Government would not withdraw from the convention, because signing up to it was a condition of EU membership. "We've been a signatory to the convention for decades, it represents basic rights that everyone would subscribe to," he told Sky News.

Lord Falconer said: "This is not about an attack on the judges, this is about making clear in particular areas - like for example the release of prisoners who might be a danger to society - that public safety comes first."

Ministers are treading a delicate path between reassuring the public they are not soft on crime and terrorism, without provoking criticism over civil liberties. The landmark 1998 Act has always been their main defence against such criticism.

Tony Blair is anxious not to be outflanked on law and order by the Tories, whose leader David Cameron said last week his party would reform, replace or scrap the Act. Mr Cameron's intervention came after critics blamed the Act for a judge's ruling that nine Afghan refugees who hijacked a plane could not be deported and for a convicted rapist, Anthony Rice, murdering a woman while on parole. Government sources said the review would operate at three levels. First, officials would be trained to ensure the Act was applied properly and priority was given to public safety. Second, the Government would pursue appeals in cases such as the Afghan hijackers.

After assessing the success of these two moves, the Government would consider whether a change in the law was needed - either by amending legislation or changing the umbrella 1998 Act. "We are at the stage of posing the question," said one Whitehall source.

Mr Blair ordered the review in letters to Lord Falconer and the Home Secretary, John Reid, setting out key challenges facing their departments.

He told the Lord Chancellor: "You should devise a strategy, working with the judiciary, which maintains the effectiveness of the Human Rights Act and improves the public's confidence in the legislation."

Mr Blair told Mr Reid: "We will need to look again at whether primary legislation is needed to address the issue of court rulings which overrule the Government in a way that is inconsistent with other EU countries' interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights."

Louise Christian, a human rights lawyer, said the moves were a diversion from the failure to review foreign criminals for deportation. "This is a blatant attempt by a Government that's in trouble over bread-and-butter criminal justice issues to distract attention from its own problems," she said.

Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP, said: "It is puerile politics to blame a single rape or murder on the Human Rights Act."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable