Azara Blog: Some MPs want the UK to adopt a Bill of Rights

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Date published: 2008/08/10

The BBC says:

The government should adopt a Bill of Rights for the UK, a cross-party committee of MPs and peers has urged.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights said the bill should go further than current human rights legislation.

The bill should give greater protection to groups such as children, the elderly and those with learning difficulties, it said in a report.

Labour and the Conservatives agree on the need for a new Bill of Rights, but differ on what areas it should cover.

The Conservatives have said they would bring in such a bill to replace the Human Rights Act.

The committee said the bill should include rights to housing, education and a healthy environment.

Its report referred to a survey conducted in 2006 when more than three-quarters of the people polled agreed that "Britain needs a Bill of Rights to protect the liberty of the individual".
The Bill would also encompass Britons' social and economic rights, including the right to health, housing, education and an adequate standard of living, the report said.

The committee said these elements would help to distinguish the Bill of Rights from current human rights legislation.

"Rights such as the right to adequate healthcare, to education and to protection against the worst extremes of poverty touch the substance of people's everyday lives.

"And it would help to correct the popular misconception that human rights are a charter for criminals and terrorists," it went on.

Andrew Dismore, chairman of the joint committee, said a Bill of Rights would be a "constitutional landmark".

"It would provide a framework both for protecting the liberty of the individual against the intrusion of state power, and for protecting the 'little person' against powerful interests," he said.

The Human Rights Act is not so much a "charter for criminals and terrorists" as a way for random pushy individuals (often with the help of NGOs) to try and achieve things through the legal system that they cannot acheive through elected assemblies. And there is no indication that this proposed Bill of Rights would be any different. For example, what does it mean to have a right to a "healthy environment"? If you want to take this literally then, for example, pretty much all cars should be banned (since they pollute), thousands of factories (if not all of them) should be closed down, all coal/oil/gas/nuclear power stations should be closed down, etc. And most of the other rights can be similarly broadly interpreted. The main beneficiary of the proposed act will not be the "little person" but lawyers and NGOs.

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