White Paper on human rights law

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Indy Politics
A government White Paper on making the European Convention of Human Rights part of British law is to be published by the autumn, heralding new powers for judges to protect individuals from abuses by the state.

The move would make convention rights accessible in our courts at every level, Lord Irvine of Lairg, the Lord Chancellor, told a human rights conference in London, sparing citizens the cost and delay of going to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

In his first public speech since taking office, Lord Irvine told the conference, organised by University College London and the solicitors firm Bindman & Partners: "Incorporation will enhance the judge's powers to protect the individual against the abuse of power by the state."

A Bill is expected early in the next parliamentary session. Confirmation of the Government's manifesto commitment was widely welcomed by human rights experts yesterday. The Liberal Democrat peer and QC Lord Lester, whose own Human Rights Bill was passed by the House of Lords in 1995, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We're alone in the democratic world in having no code of values to guide law-makers and bureaucrats and judges in weighing public interest like free speech and personal privacy."

But the model of incorporation favoured by Lord Irvine drew criticism from some rights campaigners. The Lord Chancellor does not favour giving judges the right to "strike down" primary legislation which violates the convention.

John Wadham, director of the civil rights organisation Liberty, said: "It appears Lord Irvine believes that Parliament should reign supreme even when this would mean it is taking away our rights. Parliament is bound to make mistakes and the courts should be able to correct those mistakes."

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