Having worked for over twenty years as a human rights lawyer, I am very mindful, as you are, of any possible attack on our civil liberties. This is why I agree with you: the Human Rights Act must be protected. The sole focus of the Act is to protect our rights, because we’re human. It’s about protecting us from an overbearing state, and protecting the rights of minorities. It is a vital piece of legislation that keeps us safe.
The Conservatives have a history of political posturing over the Act. In 2006, David Cameron described the bill as “practically an invitation for terrorists and would-be terrorists to come to Britain”. This is obviously not the case – the Act protects our civil liberties. Now, the newly-formed Conservative government has just announced in its Queen’s Speech that they are ‘bringing forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights’.
Although we do not know the full details, the Tories’ proposal of a ‘British Bill of Rights’ is incoherent and ill-thought through. While the content of such a bill has never been fully fleshed out, we can presume it would include a much weaker protection of rights than is currently enshrined in the Human Rights Act.
It seems to me that the Tories are proposing a Bill of Privileges rather than a Bill of Rights. It may be that British citizens would have greater rights than EU citizens for example. Indeed it also seems that members of society who are acting outside of the law will not be protected by their ‘British Rights’ – such as journalists, who want to use Article 10 of the Act to protect themselves, when they want to protect their sources.
I fully support the Human Rights Act, and I will continue to oppose any attempts to reduce our rights. For example, on the invitation of Shami Chakrabarti, I spoke on the importance of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights last November. You can see the video below.
In the House of Commons, I have always stood up for civil and equal rights, and I spoke about preserving the Human Rights Act in the Queen’s Speech debate on 27th May. You can watch my speech here. In my speech, I emphasised how important it is to look beyond the rhetoric, and to see with our own eyes the real damage that could be done by removing the Human Rights Act.
I have also written several articles for the Huffington Post about this important issue and you may interested in reading them:
- Cameron's Half-Baked Assault Would Leave Our Rights and International Standing in Tatters (October 2014)