Saturday, May 13, 2006

I'm ready to rip up Human Rights Act, declares Cameron

For me, this is the first positive sign from David Cameron. If a review of the Human Rights Act doesn't lead to a sensible idea to reform it, he is ready to repeal it. He understands that it merely onshores the judicial function and he is prepared to suspend Britain's adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights pending a negotiated amendment. He has understood the issues. He has presented them clearly. He has not gone in for "cheap shots" against the judge or the parole board. It's not spin, it's principled politics. I can hardly believe I have read something so encouraging in the context of British politics.

Well done, Dave.

Telegraph | News | I'm ready to rip up Human Rights Act, declares Cameron


Anonymous said...

What I find most interesting is that we, the British, were the driving force behind the European convention of human rights after the excesses of WW2.

So who stood it all on its head?

It was the touchy feely liberals, and the cynical parasitic lawyers who followed in their wake.

As I said, most intellectual ideal reached in response to the cruel excesses nazism turned on its head by caring sympathetic liberals.

God save us from the well intentioned.

Simon Hodges said...

I'm not sure your blog's name sake would share your view! The point the article raises is that of deporting foreign nationals to countries where there is a significant chance of torture. Why should we trust memoranda of understanding with corrupt and brutal regimes but not an independent court that has so far been able to uphold the very rights that make us civilised?

You seem to be turning the issue of torture into an argument over national sovreignity. This is obviously something you care deeply about but I'm not sure this the right battleground on which to fight for your cause.

Tom Paine said...

I am a libertarian, not a bleeding-heart or "touchy-feely" liberal. The best defence of what has been happening was on Question Time recently, when Michael Heseltine asked if - in the 1960's - Russian dissidents had escaped the Soviet Union by hi-jacking a plane, we should have given them asylum. He made me doubt my view for a moment. Then I decided the answer should still have been "no". Of course we should give asylum to those who are in genuine danger who find their way to our country without breaking our laws. I am not sure even then that granting asylum should involve any obligation to provide economic support. I am sure there are plenty of charities who would help genuine cases unable to support themselves. Benefits etc. should attach to citizenship, which should be earned by trouble-free and productive residence, regardless of the means by which an immigrant arrived.

This may sound harsh, but the alternative is "asylum shopping", inevitably blurring the lines between economic migrants and genuine refugees and causing unecessary resentment of the latter.

Those who hijack a plane to force their way in, jeopardising crew and other passengers, should serve a sentence for their crime and promptly be deported without regard to the dangers they may face back home. Why should that crime be any different in this respect than, say, holding a consular official's wife hostage to induce him to issue an entry visa? Or shooting a border guard in order to cross a defended border? Would we give asylum in such cases? Under the ECHR, probably we would have to. How crazy is that?

As a tougher blogger than me said somewhere else (I can't find it now, so the quote is from memory), "If there are no scheduled flights to their countries, have the RAF drop them by parachute. If you want to be kind, teach them how to pull the cord."

If the European Convention prevents us doing that, then to hell with it. I understand that being a signatory to the Convention is a requirement for EU membership. Fine. Then we should renegotiate that requirement or leave. Or just do as France would do, i.e. repudiate the Convention and wait to be thrown out. It won't happen (unfortunately).

There are practical laws which are necessary and then there are sets of "fine words." The European Convention falls into the latter category. Without the Human Rights Act to "onshore" it, it is just international law (which is to say it is not law at all as there is no court with the ability to enforce it). That analysis puts me firmly in the "American Realist" school of jurisprudence, where I think my namesake would also have been. For example, I can't see him thinking it worth American taxpayers' money to belong to a "United Nations" in which the likes of Zimbabwe have recently been honourably discharged from duty on the "Human Rights Council" to be replaced by the likes of China, Cuba, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia!

I have to throw in a word of defence for the "cynical, parasitic lawyers" (as I am a lawyer myself). We have a duty to our clients to find all the law that is in their favour. Failure to do that is negligent. If the laws are so badly drafted (as most "fine words" laws are) that they can be twisted to unexpected use, then that is the fault of the naieve, unparasitical politicians who enacted them.