The Human Rights Act 1998: Why this must always be protected

Human Rights ActAfter the 2015 general election, David Cameron announced that during his time in government he will try and scrap the Human Rights Act of 1998 and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. After this statement only one thought sprung to mind: has David Cameron officially lost it?

However with David Cameron’s small majority, I hardly think this motion will be accepted among the MPs of the House of Commons, let alone the great British public.

I personally think that the Labour Party will seek to distance themselves from the SNP more and more and try to take the leading role in opposition following the election of their new leader. They will use their weight in MPs to try and take the leading role in Opposing the Tories while portraying the SNP as merely “supporting” their actions and counting upon the support of Lib Dems, Greens, Plaid Cymru, SDLP and the tactical support of other members of the Opposition to carry their proposals. This will be buoyed by either abstaining or rebellious Tory MPs defying the whip which is bound to happen following Cameron’s heavy handed approach to many contentious issues that has lost him much support in the back benches. Labour will seek to appeal to the Pro-EU Tories such as Ken Clarke to either abstain or vote against the Government move. We all know if Ken does others will follow and with a wafer thin Majority, all it takes is one wrong move by Cameron and he can see his bid to scrap it fail.

The rights from the Act must always be protected to help promote fairness and equality between men and women. These right also allows many children to have opportunities and  have the chance of having a decent career and a stable home life, from such rights as “The right to an education” and “The right to liberty and security”.

These rights must also always be protected to help the weak and the vulnerable from discrimination and the freedom from slavery and forced labour. The right to be protected from discrimination helps to keep equality and fairness between both genders, by not allowing women to be discriminated against for any reason, as well as protecting people from being discriminated against because of their sexuality.

This act also supports people who have mental health problems, allowing them to be treated fairly and humanly with the right to be protected from mistreatment. As we know, the Conservatives don’t really take mental health that seriously. This Act protects people with mental health issues from being discriminated against because of their mental condition. Once a mental health sufferer myself, I know how important it is to be treated fairly and to be allowed the same opportunities and the chance to live a normal life.

The Human Rights Act has already done so much in dictating what governments can and cannot do. It protects the government from snooping on us and our family, and demands that public authorities within the UK treat everybody with fairness and equality. It has also helped domestic violence victims and allowed those who are in care to take control of their life decisions.

As long as I am alive I will always believe that this is one of the most important Acts of our time. I may not agree with much that Tony Blair did during his time in government, but I think that creating this Act was the best thing he did during his time in government. The Liberal Democrats always fought against the Tories to protect the rights of the people of Britain during their time in government, still allowing people to live a fair life knowing that they will always have the support of the government if they are discriminated against for any reason.

We will always continue to fight for the rights of people within Britain, whether that’s in the House of Commons, local councils or campaigning on the streets of Britain. But have no fear, if there is any attempt to take away or abuse people’s Human Rights, the Liberal Democrats will always be there to protect them and stand up to the Tories.

Let this Act continue to do the greatness it has already done!

* Hannah Ashworth is a young passionate Liberal and mental health campaigner who is not afraid to stand up for what the Liberal Democrats believe in

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16 Comments

  • I have to admit, as a new Lib Dem member, I’m not 100% clear on *why* the Human Rights Act is better than the proposed Bill of Rights, and what the Conservatives are effectively trying to change. Could we maybe have a piece that explains this more clearly?

  • Paul, the Tories don’t yet know what they are going to put forward. Gove is thinking!

  • jedibeeftrix 27th Jul '15 - 5:59pm

    “I have to admit, as a new Lib Dem member, I’m not 100% clear on *why* the Human Rights Act is better than the proposed Bill of Rights, and what the Conservatives are effectively trying to change”

    Hi Paul, it is better if you approve of the judicial activism of the ECHR in reinterpreting the original convention, by acting in ways that ignore the principles of subsidiarity and margin-for-appreciation.

  • Little Jackie Paper 27th Jul '15 - 6:36pm

    ‘The Human Rights Act has already done so much in dictating what governments can and cannot do.’

    Good grief!

  • Richard Underhill 27th Jul '15 - 6:46pm

    Pressure from some newspapers about the effect pf Article 8 on immigration may be one of the reasons. Article 8 is widely drawn and widely interpreted. There has been enough time and enough cases forthe Supreme Court to clarify what is intended. If the Tories want to restrict they need to cancel the HRA and start again with something else, such as Magna Carta, which does not protect women, serfs or Jews.
    Although Tony Blair was Prime Minister his mention of the act in ‘A Journey’ consists of one sentence on page 26 (out of 691) “Derry announced our plans fot the Human Rights Act, the enactment into UK law of the European Convention on Human Rights”. Blair had been a junior barristers in a practice led by Derry Irvine. Blair gave Irvine a peerage and made him Lord Chancellor (then in the Lords) .
    Although the HRA was in the 1997 Labour manifesto and support from the Liberal Democrats, New Labour needed to prioritise. Peter Mandelson refers to the first four years of New Labour as looking for ‘low hanging fruit’.
    Only Jack Straw and Derry Irvine regarded the HRA as a priority. Blair’s priority was ‘getting re-elected’, which achieved in 2001.
    Complying with the human rights convention was in the legislation which empowered devolution to Scotland before the HRA came into force. Derry Irvine got it through parliament by making it clear that parliament was supreme. He did not include Article 1 because, reputedly he thought ‘the lawyers will have too much fun’. Article 13 is defended if there is an effective remedy, which there usually is.
    After a lengthy delay, allegedly for the training of judges, the HRA came into force on 1/10/2000, so there was not much time for cases to reach the courts before the general election.
    We should therefore not be just defending the HRA, we should look to enhance it, as has been discussed on another thread. It was always assumed that enhancement would happen after the HRA had bedded in, but Blair got bored or distracted by other issues, including a war in Iraq.

  • Richard Underhill 27th Jul '15 - 6:47pm

    When Ming Campbell was leader he pledge to defend the Human Rights Act.

  • Richard Underhill 27th Jul '15 - 6:55pm

    One effect of the HRA was the release of a large number of immigration detainees.
    Another was the requirement to reconsider a large number of cases where asylum had been refused but HRA had not been considered, which caused a substantial increase in the queues.
    After that an asylum claim was automatically treated as a human rights claim as well.
    The standard of proof was worded differently, but a key judgement made it identically the same ‘ or the judges would need to do mental gymnastics’.

  • Richard Underhill 27th Jul '15 - 6:59pm

    Most immigrants arrive in the south-east of England, at Dover or Heathrow. Their claims were mainly considered in Croydon. They were often housed in areas of depopulation such as Liverpool or Glasgow.
    In theory the HRA was the same acros the UK, but if an appeal was heard in Scotland it was more likely to be allowed.

  • Paul Dann

    “I’m not 100% clear on *why* the Human Rights Act is better than the proposed Bill of Rights”

    It all depends on what they are proposing now. Graying came out with a draft that was so ridiculous (mocked across the board) that he had to scrap it straight away. The former Tory Attorney General is no longer in office due to his opposition to the bonkers proposals that they were trying to come up with.

    “I’m not 100% clear on […] what the Conservatives are effectively trying to change”

    Neither are they. Changing something when they don’t know what they will come up with will be better, doesn’t sound very “conservative” does it…

    David Wallace

    “I’m not clear why one rights act is better than another”

    When your proposed r5eplacement would sit perfectly in the script of the ‘The Thick of It’ you know it is worse.

    “Rights are just things the government chooses to allow you to do or have.”

    Not quite they are something that the legal framework of the country (treaties, legislature and judiciary) ensure you have, governments may dominate the legislature but it is not them who give them to you. As on a case by case basis they would normally give you no rights as they are subject to short term pressures. It’s that ‘whole rule of law’ thing.

  • Until we know what rights the Tories propose David Wallace’s comment has no meaning.

    For anyone looking for a sound discussion of the HRA, written as it happens by two Tories, Jesse Norman and Peter Oborne, I strongly recommend “Churchill’s Legacy”, published by Liberty with a forward by Shami Chakrabarti.

  • David Wallace

    “I think I should have the right to use drugs with fear of prosecution because I think my body is mine and as a adult I should have the right to make these choices. The government and the lib dems disagree.”

    The HRA is not perfect, for example it has too many caveats on things like free speech, it also has a problematic are in the ‘private and family life’ where it is so wide it becomes a right for the rich who can a ford lots of legal support and should have more codification of particular areas (privacy for example) to make it useable and less abuseable.

    I would agree that there should be a right to harm yourself if it doesn’t directly harm others, but I don’t think anyone thinks the HRA is perfect just better than what the Tories have come up with as an alternative.

    Are you sure the LibDems oppose legalisation of drugs (I genuinely don’t know) as there have always been confusing messaging on that.

  • Richard Underhill 28th Jul '15 - 10:44am

    David Wallace The European CONVENTION on Human Rights is better than the Universal DECLARATION on Human Rights because it is enforcable in law, not just an aspiration for use in jurisdictions which ignore or deny it.
    The European Convention on Human Rights is better than the equivalent in the USA because it has a smaller number of carefully chosen absolutes. The American system leads to clashes between absolutes which can be very difficult or absolutely impossible for judges, even on the US Suprem Court.

  • Richard Underhill 28th Jul '15 - 10:45am

    There are hints about what the Tories would like to do in the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and from DC at PMQ.

  • Simon Banks 29th Jul '15 - 5:20pm

    When you read the Human Rights Act it’s difficult to see why it should be replaced. It’s commonsense enough. British lawyers had a big hand in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on which it’s based. It does not undermine parliamentary sovereignty at all because our parliament had to pass it and it’s interpreted by our judges.

    A British Bill of Rights might be better or worse – no draft has been published – but in the hands of a Conservative majority in Parliament, I think it’s reasonable to assume it would be weak in limiting abuse of power by the government.

    Where I’m not sure about Hannah’s argument is over the Labour Party. If it’s listening to the people who want to bash “benefits scroungers” as evidenced by Harriet Harman’s position over the budget, it may also listen to the same people who hate the Human Rights Act. It will be interesting to see how the new leader plays it. Of course, if Labour can embarrass the Tories at Westminster, they will.

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