Letter: Bill of Rights

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From Mr John Wadham

Sir: In the account of the need for a Freedom of Information Act ("How free can we get with their information?", 19 February), Nicholas Timmins mentions the other important change in the Constitution - the creation of a Bill of Rights - which is also urgently required. Unfortunately, many people, including politicians, believe that this second demand can be met by simply incorporating the European Convention of Human Rights into domestic law.

While incorporation may be a necessary first step towards creating a proper Bill of Rights for this country, it is insufficient in itself. Despite the fact that changing standards in Europe are to some extent reflected in the decisions that the judges make, there are limits to this and to the extent to which the convention can be used to protect rights in the 21st century.

These are not arguments against incorporating the convention immediately. Nevertheless, the convention has a number of rights missing from its text. There is, for instance, no right to information from public bodies; and, immigrants, asylum seekers and those being extradited under the convention are given very little protection.

Apart from wholesale omissions of important rights, there are also considerable gaps and limitations in the rights that are provided by the convention. Now is the time to begin the discussion of the details of the Bill of Rights that we want to complement the rights that are contained in the European convention.

Yours faithfully,

John Wadham



London, SE1