The Bill of Rights Commission Report reflects the muddled Tory stance on Europe

Pushing through this new legislation will be costly, contentious and ultimately a waste of time

Related Topics

The majority report reflects the muddled and superficial thinking at the heart of the Conservative party on the issue of Europe. We already have a British Bill of Rights. The Human Rights Act has been interpreted and applied by British judges in a balanced and intelligent way that reflects British legal traditions, and the judgments of our Supreme Court now exert a powerful influence over the Court in Strasbourg precisely because they are interpreting the same set of rights, but with a distinctively British character. To embark on an ill thought through process of altering the language and content of our human rights legislation at this time is irresponsible madness. It is just a continuation of the mischief-making that David Cameron has encouraged among his less well-informed back-benchers.

Pushing through new legislation at this time will be hugely contentious and fiercely opposed by all those concerned with the administration of justice, including the majority of the senior judiciary. It will ultimately costs hundreds of millions in re-training, and entirely unnecessary litigation on the meaning of the new legislation.

I was personally responsible for devising and delivering compulsory training for the judiciary and the Bar when the Human Rights Act came into force. It took two full years to deliver. During that time all public authorities had to review their decision-making from top to bottom, at great public expense. If these proposals are taken seriously, all that will have to happen again. At a time when the Government is forcing through cuts in legal aid for ordinary people on low incomes, and driving an austerity agenda on public spending generally, I shudder to think of the number of hospitals and schools that could be built and funded with the money that would be spent on these pointless reforms.

If implemented - and I hope they never will be - they will result in more cases going to Strasbourg rather than less. It is absurd to suggest that any British government could ever pull out of the Council of Europe, and Ministers know this. Far from creating "public ownership" these lazy and sloppy proposals will result in more significant decisions being taken in Strasbourg than at present. With the exception of Lord Lester, none of the majority has any recognised competence in human rights law. It is like allowing the editors of the Daily Mail and the Sun to draft our constitution.

The reason for public hostility to the Human Rights Act is not because British people lack ownership. It is an Act of the British Parliament after all. The real reason is because Conservative politicians, including the Home Secretary, the Justice Secretary and the Prime Minister have deliberately mobilised hostility to the Act for nakedly political reasons. They have behaved with staggering irresponsibility in threading to openly flout judicial rulings that are binding on the United Kingdom. And they have done all this because they want to attack the Labour Party for enacting this legislation 14 years ago. The present report is just the next step in that process.

Ed Miliband and Sadiq Khan should stand firm and defend the Human Rights Act which was one of Labour's greatest achievements, second only to the creation of free public health and education. The Human Rights Act protects the vulnerable in our society and gives judges the tools they need to hold irresponsible Ministers to account. That is a very British tradition.

The only parts of the report worth reading are the minority sections reflecting the views of Baroness Kennedy and Professor Sands, both of whom know a thing or two about human rights. The rest is nonsense. The Labour Party should defend it's achievement, and the majority of the judges and the legal profession will stand with them. So too should ordinary British voters because it is their rights that are being put at stake here.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities