Letter: Power to the judges

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The Independent Online
Sir: Francesca Klug of Charter 88 (letter, 5 July) contests my statement that a Bill of Rights would necessarily shift power to judges. In doing so, she amply illustrates why I am right.

Opportunities to sue government ministers and public officials have already grown enormously in recent decades, without a Bill of Rights. The mind boggles at the torrent of litigation which would result if judges were also required to weigh government decisions against a vague list of "universal values".

The experience of the New Zealand Bill of Rights model, where the courts cannot overturn legislation, also supports my contention. The New Zealand Bill of Rights was not entrenched due to lack of popular support for such a move. Yet the New Zealand Court of Appeal has already succeeded in making the Bill of Rights into an instrument that goes far beyond what was originally intended by New Zealand's parliament.

Ms Klug argues that international human rights instruments provide a suitable source for a common set of values. The proponents of "objective values" must restrict themselves to a few abstract ideals whose vagueness allows almost any interpretation. By judges. I have no doubt that Messrs Woolf, Slynn and others are very clever chaps but we should not ask them to become philosopher-kings.


London SW1