A pledge too far: Scrapping the Human Rights Act can’t be done, thankfully


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The Independent Online

It is intriguing to wonder what goes through the monarch’s mind when she receives a first draft of the speech she is expected to deliver to Parliament. This time round, she may well have wondered what happened to the Government’s pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act.

Shrewd as she is, she would not have been fooled by the weaselly words “My Government will bring forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights” as indicating any serious commitment to legislate. She, being famously well-informed, will also know why “my Lords and Members of the House of Commons” won’t let David Cameron and Michael Gove complete this act of folly – and they know it.

And so we witness the first U-turn of this young Government, not quite three weeks into its life and executed even before the Queen’s Speech. Something of a record, surely. Still, it is welcome for all that. The Tory manifesto pledge was a nonsense. Either we are in the European Convention, or we are not. If we want a British Bill of Rights that is not identical to the Human Rights Act, then we cannot be part of the European Convention. Leaving the European Convention was not mentioned in the Conservative manifesto. It is all a mess. Better, as Mr Gove has done, to put it out for consultation in the hope that some sort of fudge can be dreamt up by the greatest legal and political minds in the country. It may be beyond even them.

A better course for Mr Gove would be plain honesty: admit that the Government would love to scrap the Human Rights Act – but Parliament won’t let this happen. It’s not his fault. Tory rebel MPs, allied with the DUP, SNP, Labour, Liberal Democrats et al, can wreck any Bill, as can the Lords (where the Tories have no majority). Mr Gove is an innocent Lord Chancellor who deserves to be released from this absurd commitment. One might even say it is his human right.