The Sketch: The Great Charter of state intrusion

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The Independent Online

Secondary and tertiary human rights? The political class has discovered derivatives. They are creating layers of political discourse that you cannot penetrate without a QC in one hand and 50 cubic feet of legislation in another.

Our hero, or at least our leading man, is Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary. Courteous, affable, heir to Blair, master of the "Yes, but" answer.

He was in front of 'Dismal' Dismore's Human Rights committee to tell us about his Bill of Rights. His sidekick, Michael Wills, said he wanted it to last as long as the first Bill of Rights (1689). But it's called a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities – BRR. It will set out a spectrum. "At one end it will be fully justiciable and at the other, purely declaratory." Nothing that "lays down a spectrum of justiciability" is going to last 300 years.

One thing it's going to define, Jack said, is "to what extent we have responsibilities to ourselves, each other and our communities".

Does that sound peculiar to you? No? You must be under 25. You must work for the state. You want to make your fortune trading justiciable derivatives. But for the rest of us: Jack is going to put on the statute book a law defining your responsibility to yourself. That seems so far from being what a law should be that I deduce we have entered the parallel universe. But this isn't isolated evidence. Other responsibilities to ourselves are going to be announced today in the NHS Constitution.

This is at the heart of modern administrative philosophy. Jack said: "You have a social responsibility to keep yourself healthy because otherwise you waste the resources of the health service."

Richard Shepherd said that the thrust of Bill of Rights was to reserve private space from the government. These derivatives do exactly the opposite. It's a Great Charter for direct access of the state to the depths of our most private lives.