As churches across the land celebrate Shavuot or Pentecost and the giving of the law to Moses through the tablets of stone the nations press is preparing us for their own feast of perfect laws to be introduced by the Government made in their image. It would be easy to simply take their confident words at face value and not challenge the logic and strength of their arguments. Today the Sunday Telegraph is regaling its readers with a modest case for the dissolution of the human rights act and its replacement with a British Bill of Rights, something for which they have long campaigned. To their credit they point out the challenge of getting it right will not be easy and they acknowledge the difficult role that Michael Gove has on his hands. In these circumstances it is likely that there will be a number of slips and not everything will be as smooth as we might all wish. However they seem convinced at the failing of the rules that have been ‘imposed’ on us as a result of our own actions in establishing the European Convention on Human Rights and these clearly in their own opinion justify undertaking this risky journey that leads us into uncharted waters. The paper highlights 2 issues to explain why this difficult and costly change is needed.
The first is the cases where foreign prisoners, are prevented from being deported because they have managed to set up a home in the UK where British children are involved. The second is the pressure to give voting rights to some prisoners.
It would be easy to address both of these issues, I have already written about the importance of allowing some prisoners to take part in the electoral processes of our nation. The case of the prisoners and their children is a matter of concern, but so to are the wealthy men (and perhaps occasionally women) who anticipating their assets being sequestrated, use their spouse as a shield. Matters which are just as disturbing. The truth is that such cases are not numerous and there may be better ways of addressing such abuse than replacing a well tested set of laws with new ones that will have many of their own loopholes. Unless of course the Telegraph has some more disturbing examples that they can identify?
The Human Rights Act is no God given law, but it isn’t the problem that the right wing press and their supporters are claiming. I am amongst many others who do not believe that HRA should be replaced without a significant level of debate and consultation beyond the people that Michael Gove turns to every time he has a bright idea.