Straw sets out rights for 21st-century Britons

Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, yesterday set out plans for an updated list of Britons' rights and responsibilities redrawn for the 21st century – more than 300 years after their first introduction.

The Bill of Rights and Responsibilities would reaffirm every citizen's right to equal health care if they become ill, decent treatment if they become a victim of crime, free education for every child and universal access to good housing.

The statement of responsibilities could include the duty to pay taxes and obey the law, as well as vote in elections, undertake jury service if summoned and treat public sector staff with respect.

Reflecting modern worries about the planet's future, it could also require citizens to live "within our environmental limits". The proposals came after Gordon Brown put the issue of constitutional reform at the centre of his leadership campaign in 2007.

The moves were set out in a green paper, with the Government planning to draw up more detailed proposals next year. Mr Straw acknowledged there was no prospect of legislation before the general election, which has to take place by June 2010.

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