Clarke: no withdrawal from human rights


9:40 am - November 24th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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Yesterday Ken Clarke was asked whether he would repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.

Here is his response (via ConHome):

The coalition Government do not intend to withdraw from the European convention on human rights, which was imposed by the victorious British on the rest of Europe after the war in order to establish British values across the countries that were recovering from fascism and was drafted largely by Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, who put what he thought were the best principles of British justice into it.

That effectively kills the the flagship Tory commitment to scrapping the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a British Bill of Rights.

I’m surprised the Tory right hasn’t erupted in a huge outcry over this.

It was only two years ago Cameron repeated his pledge to scrap the Act altogether and replace it with “tougher standards for British courts”.

Or a British Bill of Rights as he called it.

Anyway, we can chalk this up as a Libdem victory within the Coalition and should sincerely congratulate them on winning the internal battle. The HRA was an important piece of legislation and it would be madness to leave the ECHR.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


I don’t see anything in there about not scrapping the HRA…

2. Guy Aitchison

It would be perfectly possible to repeal the HRA and not withdraw from the ECHR. The HRA simply means that Convention rights are enforceable in British courts. Repeal but not withdrawal has always been the Tory plan and it’s only fringe elements, like Carswell, who want to withdraw from the ECHR as well.

I think you may be right that plans to repeal the HRA have been long-grassed with this commission they’re setting up, but there’s nothing in Clarke’s statements to suggest they’ve pre-judged this and will be keeping the HRA.

I suspect the Tory right is quiet for the time being due to Ken’s portrael of the human rights act as being a quintessentially British endeavour. Framed it to fit snugly within their existing prejudices.

The Tory policy has consistently been that they will not resile from the Convention. This was what Dominic Grieve was saying before the election as shadow Justice Secretary, including at a 3-way debate at the EHRC with Jack Straw and David Heath.

This doesn’t mean much about the Human Rights Act. Britain signed the Convention in the early 1960s but only passed the HRA in 2000.

Er…no, it doesn’t. It’s him saying we won’t withdraw from the ECHR. The context – omitted above – was prisoner’s votes, not some blanket demand for us to withdraw.

There’s nothing to stop the HRA being repealed by a new Bill of Rights. This would not amount to withdrawal from the ECHR.

Even if the HRA was simply repealed, this wouldn’t amount to withdrawl. We were in the ECHR prior to the HRA, but Convention rights lacked domestic direct effect. In theory, you’d be back to the pre-HRA position (albeit with some residual judgements which included Convention rights).

I’m not sure we can chalk this one up as a success just yet.

I don’t think you can chalk it up as a LD win: the pre-election Tory chat about a British Bill of Rights was most probably just headline-chasing.

Even if there had been genuine appetite for a BBR, it would have slipped off the radar. Constitutional reform isn’t top priority when the public finances are in such a mess.

I agree with others that the title does not fit the content.

Cylux,

I suspect the Tory right is quiet for the time being due to Ken’s portrael of the human rights act as being a quintessentially British endeavour. Framed it to fit snugly within their existing prejudices.

Well, he’s sort of right, and is that such a bad thing (to frame it for their prejudices)?

People against the HRA / ECHR should be asked what they are specifically against. Are they against, for example, fair trials? Are they against habeas corpus (challenging the circumstances of one’s detention)? Are they against the prohibition of ex post facto law?

These and more are quintessentially British things.

I wasn’t awfully clear in my first comment, but I think framing it within someone’s prejudices is brillant and should really be more common in politics. Advancing an idea you believe to be right, using reasons and criteria that those opposed are more likely to find attractive, and perhaps make them have a good think about their current opposition.

9. Chaise Guevara

@ 8

Agreed. The way Clarke phrased the announcement was a brilliant bit of marketing.

Also, it would be nice to see the odd accurate headline around here. Just sayin’.

Heh.

It was only two years ago Cameron repeated his pledge to scrap the Act altogether and replace it with “tougher standards for British courts”.

Or a British Bill of Rights as he called it.

Anyway, we can chalk this up as a Libdem victory

Um, Sunny?

While I like it that you’re willing to give credit where you think it’s due, in this case?

The “British Bill of Rights” was always going to be based on the ECHR, but it was going to replace the HRA with something much more fundamental and include some “responsibilities” as well, although that was always tenuously defined.

The Tory policy was never, ever, to withdraw from the ECHR, Cameron knew exactly what he was doing with all that talk. There’s a review ongoing, and I suspect some sort of amendment to the HRA will come out of it that’ll look tough but actually will do very little.

I’ve never had anyone actually tell me any of the specific rights in the HRA that we shouldn’t have. A fair few will tell me stuff that they’re unhappy on as it doesn’t go far enough (far too many bloody opt outs), but never owt else.

As I recall Clarke was pretty openly dismissive of his party’s HRA policy long before the coalition was formed. In the circumstances, appointing him LC was a pretty clear indication that the HRA stays as is.

Essentially, I think it’s been long-grassed. The tory centre knew it would never be practical and without lib dem support for it (one thing I can guarantee even Nick would stick to his principles over) it would stand no chance of getting through parliament.

Well!, a u-turn I’m happy about!!

I’m surprised it’s gone without a ripple and join you in congratulating the libs!!


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Confirmed: Human Rights Act won't be scrapped http://bit.ly/dNZKuS

  2. Gavin Lingiah

    RT @libcon: Confirmed: Human Rights Act won't be scrapped http://bit.ly/dNZKuS

  3. Elliot Page

    RT @libcon: Confirmed: Human Rights Act won't be scrapped http://bit.ly/dNZKuS

  4. Boris Watch

    RT @libcon: Confirmed: Human Rights Act won't be scrapped http://bit.ly/dNZKuS

  5. Steve Greer

    Tories abandon plan to scrap Human Rights Act by declaring it part of VICTORIOUS GIFT OF BRITISH VALUES TO EUROPE: http://bit.ly/gt6D5u

  6. earwicga

    RT @libcon: Confirmed: Human Rights Act won't be scrapped http://bit.ly/dNZKuS

  7. Sue Pellegrino

    RT @libcon: Confirmed: Human Rights Act won't be scrapped http://bit.ly/dNZKuS

  8. Down'sSyndromeAssoc

    RT @libcon: Confirmed: Human Rights Act won't be scrapped http://bit.ly/dNZKuS

  9. United Response

    RT @libcon: Confirmed: Human Rights Act won't be scrapped http://bit.ly/dNZKuS

  10. Andy S

    RT @libcon: Confirmed: Human Rights Act won't be scrapped http://bit.ly/dNZKuS

  11. Nick H.

    RT @libcon: Confirmed: Human Rights Act won't be scrapped http://bit.ly/dNZKuS

  12. Adam Banks

    Ken Clarke superbly explains to Tory right that human rights aren't a silly European invention http://bit.ly/eL99jZ

  13. Wendy Maddox

    I should bloody well think not!! : RT @libcon: Clarke: no withdrawal from human rights http://bit.ly/dNZKuS

  14. Nicholas Stewart

    Clarke: no withdrawal from human rights http://j.mp/epxE63 – one good piece of news

  15. The Human Rights Act: “Safe in Our Hands?” « The BigotBasher

    […] (if the blogosphere is actually representative of opinion) is predictable. The reaction on the left has been wrong (if the UK left blogistan is represented by Sunny Hundal). The coalition committed itself to […]





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