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Tuesday 18th December 2012 | 17:14
JUSTICE press release
The Commission on a Bill of Rights for the UK has today published its report on the future of individual rights in the UK. JUSTICE welcomes the Commission's recognition that its work should not be seen as a starting gun for significant constitutional change, but simply as a contribution to a wider national public conversation about our constitution. We also welcome the recognition that this discussion must take account of the UK's carefully constructed devolution settlement and the distinct history and legal traditions in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
However, we regret that the majority of the Commission has chosen to express support for a Bill of Rights, despite failing to agree on any substantive problem with the existing protection offered by the Human Rights Act 1998 or on the precise content of any future constitutional rights document.
The Commission's terms of reference were clear: to investigate the case for a Bill which would build on our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
We share the concerns expressed by the dissenting members of the Commission, Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws (Chair of the JUSTICE Council) and Professor Philippe Sands. The Commission's majority endorsement of the case for a Bill of Rights neglects the political, and increasingly toxic, nature of the current debate on rights protection in the UK. It is regrettable that this might be used as justification by some to begin stripping away the protection offered to us all by both the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Angela Patrick, Director of Human Rights Policy said:
"The Commission's conclusions illustrate its divided and unrepresentative nature. The only key consensus is that the public needs better information about rights. Its wider recommendations beg for caution.
The Lord Chancellor has already pre-empted the conclusions of the Commission with a call for the UK to distance itself from the European Court of Human Rights.
JUSTICE is concerned that the highly politicised debate will continue in the same vein, compounding myths and misconceptions about rights, both at home and abroad."