Here’s a full copy of chair Phill Roberts’ current letter to the papers on the topic of Human Rights:
Ref: European Convention on Human Rights & The Human Rights Act
In recent times there has been a call for a British Bill of Rights not least from many Liberal Democrats. You would after all expect the Liberal Democrats to champion human rights, freedom and citizenship. Liberal Democrats have always supported and protected our human rights and have a long and proud history of campaigning for human rights and the protection of individual freedoms
In government, we supported the development and setting up of the 2011 Commission on a British Bill of Rights. However The Commission failed to come to a unanimous position due to the Conservatives using The Commission as an opportunity to undermine and weaken the ECHR rather than an opportunity to strengthen our human rights legislation.
In the first few days of this new parliament the Conservatives have brought forward proposals to develop their own Bill of Rights and restrict the use of freedom of information requests.
Freedom of information requests have been used by individuals, campaign groups and a free press and media to shine a light on many issues of public concern, not least the abuse of children, failure of our institutions to deliver care to our elderly and abuses of power within local and national government.
When in government, we were also able to scrap the Labour proposals for a National ID Card, remove innocent people from the National DNA Data Base, stop child detention for immigration purposes and halve the period of detention in prison without charge.
There are many myths and misconceptions regarding the ECHR and The Human Rights Act, mainly promoted by a right wing press, global corporations and certain political parties who use our human rights legislation and a few high profile cases, often linked to terrorism, as an argument to support their case against the European Union.
We should not confuse the ECHR and human rights legislation with our membership of the European Union or our fight against terrorism.
Our human rights have been hard fought for by previous generations and through world conflicts; the democratic values and beliefs of British lawyers are embedded in the ECHR and Human Rights Legislation, supported and upheld by previous British Parliaments.
Yes, we need a British Bill of Rights and a Constitutional Convention to address the many issues associated with constitutional change and the call for devolved powers from Westminster to Regional Government; Scottish devolution has not gone away and there are many unresolved constitutional issues waiting just around the corner.
Let us therefore not be complacent and easily fooled into joining a call to scrap our Human Rights Legislation at a time when we need it more than ever or into a belief that a Conservative Government, supported by a right wing press, global corporations and hedge fund managers, would be the appropriate body to develop a British Bill of Rights.
Our Human Rights Legislation is there to protect us, our personal freedoms, and underpins our democracy; it may at times need to be updated and strengthened. However this should not be left in the hands of political elites and vested interests.
(Chair, Copeland & Workington Liberal Democrats)
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