Sunday, February 27, 2005

Human Rights & New Labour

My colleague David Davies, the Conservative Candidate for Monmouth, has written a good piece on his Blog which I reproduce below...

"Labour are trying to suggest that anyone who opposes the idea that former Marxist Charles Clarke should be allowed to imprison people without trial, is willing to see British citizens being murdered by suicide bombers. In reality they themselves brought about the situation, whereby foreign terrorists can roam freely around the country, when they signed the Human Rights Act. As a result of this act the "human rights" of British subjects are about to severely curtailed. If Labour are really concerned about terrorism they could admit they made a mistake and renounce the act. This would then allow them to give foreign terrorist suspects the choice of remaining under lock and key in the UK or being put on the first plane back to wherever they came from."

If I could have put it better myself, I would have.


Anonymous said...

Well I guess y'all that read this last posting must agree with this as there haven't been any wiseguy comments! Rather hard to disagree with it, isn't it?

Westbury-on-Trym Lib Dems said...

I just hadn't got around to reading it Lady F!

Mr Davies' attempt to link Mr Clarke's current plans to the Human Rights Act is tenuous at best. It is not entirely clear what Mr Davies, Iain or the Conservative Party are arguing here and they appear to have tied themselves up in knots on the issue.

First, we can probably agree that "foreign" terrorists roaming the streets are neither more nor less dangerous than "British" terrorists roaming the streets. If they plant a bomb in you office you will suffer the same regardless of whether the bomber was born in North Walsham or North Korea.

Secondly, we can agree that you have to have objective criteria to judge whether an individual is really a threat. You cannot just lock people up on spurious grounds.

In that context, the mechanism for dealing with terrorist threats should apply equally to individuals of all backgrounds and should include a suitable process for determining who constitutes a threat.

This is common sense and I do not see how it relates to arguments over the desirability of the Human Rights Act. All the judgment in this case did was force the Government to reassess a system which neither addressed the problem of home-grown terrorists nor provided an appropriate mechanism to ensure the right people were being detained.

Actually, I had thought the Conservatives agreed that such reassessment was desirable - though like the Lib Dems they disapprove of the new system just as they disapproved of the old one.

I would not take an extreme line on this, and nor do the judiciary. Plainly, the level of threat posed by terrorists at present is far greater than that posed by shoplifters and the burden of proof may need to be less in the former case (e.g. you may wish to take into account that an individual has attended quasi-religious events at which extreme preaching has been a feature). But that does not mean there should not be a robust mechanism to examine the evidence in an even-handed way. The judiciary (backed by the Human Rights Act), the Lib Dems and the Tories appear to agree on that, and Mr Davies' comment that the Human Rights Act is to blame is facile.

Anonymous said...


We are all on the same page here except for your comment on Mr. Davies' 'facile' argument.

The truth is that had we not been bound by Human Rights legislation (and funny how our nearest neighbour, La Belle France, always opts out of Erupoean legislation they find inconvenient. Actually I'm not putting them down for this, we should take a leaf out of their book)we would be able able to send foreign terrorist back home, or better yet, not let them in, in the first place. Now I agree that doesn't take into consideration British citizens who are involved in terrorist activities but if we were able to get rid of people such as terorist preachers like the hook guy and not pay them a fortune in benefits, our home grown terrorist problems would probably not be as bad. You'll probably say they could just as easily get involved online but it would take away from the impact that many of these 'preachers of hate' have in person as they are often unfortunately very charismatic people. Having been in the entertainment business I can tell you that personal appearances shift more records than anything else and the same principle applies here. So, I would say that Mr. Davies is pretty spot on.

Otherwise (quel horreur!) we actually pretty much agree for once.

Westbury-on-Trym Lib Dems said...

But Mr Davies' conclusion is entirely illogical. He states that repealing the Human Rights Act:

"would then allow them [the Government] to give foreign terrorist suspects the choice of remaining under lock and key in the UK or being put on the first plane back to wherever they came from."

But that is exactly what will occur if Charles Clarke's proposals go through (whether or not modified by Tories and Lib Dems to have proper oversight by judges).

The Human Rights Act point which the House of Lords decided was whether you could detain foreign suspects in circumstances in which you could not detain domestic suspects. This is a completely different point, and Mr Davies (and sadly Iain and yourself) appear not to have grasped that fact. Indeed, the Human Rights Act has afforded us the opportunity to address domestic as well as foreign terrorist suspects, which the Labour Government wished to prevent.

You can raise other arguments against the Human Rights Act - but Mr Davies' argument isn't one of them because it makes no logical sense.

Incidentally, the Human Rights Act has no explicit reference to asylum seekers. To my knowledge it has not been successfully used to argue against deportation by Abu Hamza or similar figures - they have simply benefitted from inadequacies in other domestic legislation. Indeed, a key benefit of the Human Rights Act is that it allows all such arguments to be resolved promptly in domestic courts whereas in the past the process could be used as a time-wasting measure (because it had to go to the European Court of Human Rights - domestic courts lacked jurisdiction).