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Treaty of Lisbon (No. 3) — (3rd allotted day)

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 3:48 pm on 5th February 2008.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice 3:48 pm, 5th February 2008

I beg to move,

That this House
approves the Government's policy towards the Treaty of Lisbon in respect of provisions concerning human rights.

The United Kingdom has been at the forefront of the development of fundamental human rights, especially since the notion was first articulated by Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt in the Atlantic charter in 1941. Nine years after that charter, British lawyers—including the distinguished lawyer Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, who later became the Conservative Lord Chancellor as Lord Kilmuir—were instrumental in drafting what became the European convention on human rights. The Labour Foreign Office Minister, Kenneth Younger, described the resulting document as

"following almost word for word the actual texts proposed by the United Kingdom representatives".

The rights contained within the convention have a long British pedigree, rooted in Magna Carta, the 1689 Bill of Rights and habeas corpus. They were a manifestation of the values already deeply imbued in the British social fabric and our common law. However, it is as much the origins as the effect of these rights that are relevant to this afternoon's debate.

The European convention was a means by which a continent racked by the most horrific violence and violations of the most basic rights could heal its wounds. The crucial development was the way in which human rights moved from just being noble sentiments to becoming legally enforceable mechanisms by which a nation's citizens could seek protection from the otherwise overweening power of the state.