At the last General Election I was elected on a manifesto which committed to reform human rights legislation. Earlier this month in Parliament I asked the Home Secretary about the progression of this important work and last week the Secretary of State for Justice came to the House of Commons to announce the new Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights will strengthen freedom of speech, curb bogus human rights claims, and provide a long-awaited reform to Tony Blair’s 1990s legislation.
Our country has a strong tradition of freedom going back centuries and this will be enhanced even further through this new Bill of Rights; it will reinforce our tradition of liberty, curtail abuses of human rights, and restore British common sense to the justice system.
The Bill of Rights will make it easier to deport foreign criminals. It will permit future laws to restrict circumstances in which the right of criminals to family life would trump public safety and the need to remove them.
This will tackle abuse of the system that has seen those convicted of hurting their own partners and children evade removal by claiming it would breach their own right to family life.
We have seen the ‘mission creep’ of human rights law being used for more and more purposes, with interpretations going far beyond what those who established the European Convention on Human Rights ever had in mind. The British Bill of Rights will make sure that public protection is given due regard in the interpretation of rights.
All those who interpret Convention rights will have to consider the need to reduce the risk to the public from convicted criminals serving a custodial sentence. This will go alongside parole reforms which will ensure a ministerial check in finely balanced cases where there is genuine risk to the public and to public confidence, and the greater use of Separation Centres in prisons to ensure that terrorists can be isolated from other prisoners they may radicalise.
The Bill of Rights will confirm that interim measures from the European Court of Human Rights like the one which prevented the removal flight to Rwanda, are not binding on UK courts.
The legislation will establish a free speech ‘trump card’ which will address how this has been eroded in recent years. The Bill of Rights will also recognise that trial by jury is a fundamental component of the British justice system. It will also empower courts to apply human rights in a UK context, making explicit that the Supreme Court is this country’s ultimate judicial arbiter.
We cannot have rights without responsibilities. It is time our legislation reflects this.
Henry Smith MP