Prospect of Bill of Rights fades amid deadlock


Nigel Morris
Sunday 16 December 2012 22:12

The prospect of a Bill of Rights was fading tonight amid signs that a commission appointed to draw up plans for the document is deadlocked.

After nearly two years of deliberations by the nine-strong body, it is understood to have reached a virtual impasse. One former member of the commission described a report to be published tomorrow with their conclusions as "disappointing and vague".

It has been hamstrung by the fundamental difference of opinion between the Coalition parties on the issue. The Tories committed themselves at the last election to replacing the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in UK law, with a Bill of Rights. By contrast, the Liberal Democrats strongly support the Human Rights Act.

In a compromise, the commission was given a remit to "investigate a British Bill of Rights" building on the UK's obligations under the ECHR.

Tomorrow's report is believed to reach few firm conclusions with the commission's members as divided as when they were appointed. They are expected to back the idea of a Bill of Rights – but only to set out options over what it could include. There are even suggestions the commission could produce a majority and minority report. Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, a Tory appointee who resigned, said: "Members have found it difficult to agree on the vaguest of recommendations."

Constitution timeline

1215 Magna Carta, forced the English King (at the time King John) to respect the laws of the land and guaranteed rights and protections to his subjects.

1689 Bill of Rights enshrined freedom of speech in Parliament and limited the crown's powers.

1776 US Declaration of Independence, inspired by Magna Carta's principles.

1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, the basis of the French revolution, guaranteed liberty and equality to individuals.

1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations.

1950 European Convention on Human Rights codified European citizens' rights, including the rights to liberty, fair trial and privacy. Britain helped to draft it.

1998 Human Rights Act enshrined the ECHR in British law.

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