Last week I was invited to attend a speech by Rt. Hon. Harriet Harman MP, interim Leader of the Labour Party, entitled ‘In Defence of Human Rights‘. She gave a robust defence of the Human Rights Act 1998, which the Conservative Party seeks to repeal. She called the Government’s plans ‘politically and constitutionally destabilising’ and made important points about how the proposals would give authoritarian countries the ‘green light’ to start defining human rights in ways that suit those in power, rather than their citizens.
Harman also made an interesting observation about the usefulness of human rights as a ‘process’:
Often there is no easy right or wrong decision. But The Human Rights Act makes the thought process right. That thought process is important for the individual but it is also a reassurance for institutions who make desperately difficult decisions because it allows them to demonstrate, that in making a decision, they did give proper weight and consideration to the relevant rights.
My emphasis. Incorporating the European Convention rights into British law means that all levels of Government think about our fundamental rights in everything they do.
Will the Conservatives’ proposed British Bill of Rights be similarly structured? If it does not insist that institutions consider human rights before they act, then there will be more rights violations. That would be an erosion of liberty and a transfer of power away from the citizen and towards the state. Is that what the Government intends?
A recording of the speech is below, and on Soundcloud.