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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Tories move to curb power of European courts

Tories move to curb power of European courts

By Andrew Grice, Political Editor

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A commission will be set up within days to consider whether the Government should bring in a "British Bill of Rights" following mounting controversy over rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.

The move will delight Conservative MPs, many of whom want Britain to curb the power of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) after it ordered the Government to grant prisoners the vote at general elections.

The Liberal Democrats will back the creation of the commission but do not want to dilute the Human Rights Act, which incorporated the ECHR into British law. The commission will try to find a compromise acceptable to the Coalition partners but ministers in both parties admit the divide between them may be too wide to be bridged.

The commission will have an independent chairman and will include a wide range of experts on human rights laws and the constitution. It will be announced jointly by Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, and Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister.

It is expected to look at how a UK Bill of Rights might affect Britain's obligations under the ECHR, which allows the Supreme Court, the highest domestic court, to be overruled by judges in Strasbourg. Options include reforming the European Court of Human Rights, possibly by opting out in an attempt to force changes that would then allow Britain to opt back in. The Liberal Democrats are unlikely to support such a dramatic move, believing it would undermine the country's commitment to human rights.

"It is a red-line area for the Lib Dems," one Tory minister admitted yesterday. "There is no guarantee the commission will find a way forward and the two parties may have to agree to disagree." A Liberal Democrat minister agreed: "We may end up going our own ways."

Such an outcome would result in the Tories drawing up a policy for inclusion in their manifesto at the next general election. Mr Clarke has insisted the Government must obey judgments by the European Court of Human Rights, but David Cameron is determined to see the Convention reformed.

Last month, the Commons agreed overwhelmingly to keep the ban on prisoners voting. The Government is now considering whether to bring in legislation to implement a 2005 ruling from Strasbourg saying the ban should be lifted. One proposal is to restrict the right to vote to people serving sentences of up to six months so that serious offenders were not enfranchised. But ministers cannot be sure that the Commons would approve such a move.

At last year's general election, the Tories pledged to replace the Human Rights Act, introduced by Labour in 1998, with a UK Bill of Rights, while the Liberal Democrats promised to protect the Act.

Ministers admit privately the Coalition Agreement's wording on the Convention was designed to paper over the two parties' different policies.

Comment: Your headline may be attention grabbing but it is utter nonsense and more fitting to The Sun than a so-called quality newspaper! The Tories do not have the power to curb either the power of the European Court of Human Rights(ECtHR) nor the Court of Justice of the European Union(ECJ).

A British Bill of Rights is racist and xenophobic in a multi-cultural country like Britain. I have no problem with a Bill of Rights or a Commission. However, the controversy should centre on the UK's failure to fully comply with Hirst v UK (No2) in over 5 years which only exposes that corruption is endemic in this country with the media, politicians and Judiciary. I suspect that Davis Cameron is political grandstanding, or worse still, jerking to his strings being pulled by Rupert Murdoch.

Tory MPs are easily pleased. Intelligent, honest people won't be. The Convention has no power, per se, any power it might have derives from States signed up to the Treaty of London 1949 abiding by the minimum human rights contained therein. The Convention did not order any such thing. The Court found the UK guilty of a human rights violation by denying me the vote. Under the terms of the Convention the UK is obliged to amend the law and to ensure that the breach is remedied.

The HRA does not want diluting any more than it already is, rather it needs strengtening. Some Articles of the Convention were not incorporated, for example Article 1 allowing all citizens to have the human rights under the Convention guaranteed is missing as is Article 13 guaranteeing an effective remedy under domestic law. If it is a criminals charter as it is claimed by some, how is it that prisoners have not yet been able to get their human right to the vote? First they came for the prisoners...

The Court will not be blackmailed into allowing the UK to get away with breaching people's human rights under the Convention. The Council of Europe is not interested in David Cameron's Hokey Kokey in out in out shake it all about Bullingdon Club restaurant trashing nonsense. Cameron is behaving like a dictator akin to the Greek Colonels in the 1960s. The UK is going down the road of a totalitarian or authoritarian state. Europe will not tolerate a rogue or pariah state in the Council of Europe and neither will the EU. I am already pushing the Council of Europe to suspend or expel the UK.

It is all very well Kenneth Clarke insisting that the Government must obey judgments by the ECtHR, when he is the Minister responsible for ensuring human rights in the UK and all he has to do to obey the Court judgment is make a remedial order under s.10 of the HRA 1998 to amend s.3 of ROPA 1983 and lay it before Parliament. Sorted. Simples! David Cameron will have to win over 46 other countries to reform the Convention, and his popularity in Europe would not win him the Eurovision Song Contest; Null Points!

It is time to stop talking about proposals. In Frodl v Austria the Court applied the Hirst test which states that regardless of the nature and seriousness of the offence and length of sentence all convcted prisoners must have the vote. Nothing less will satisfy the Council of Europe. Neither the Commons nor Parliament will have any say in the matter if Kenneth Clarke acted responsibly and did his job. Only after the event could his remedial order be challenged by new legislation, and that would be declared contrary to the Convention if it attempted to limit the franchise.

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