Bill of Rights

Oral Answers to Questions — Deputy Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 5th April 2011.

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Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Conservative, Wirral West 11:30 am, 5th April 2011

What progress he has made on establishing a commission on a Bill of Rights.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

What progress he has made on establishing a commission on a Bill of Rights.

Photo of Nick Clegg Nick Clegg The Deputy Prime Minister , Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office), Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

The commission has been established. The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend Mr Harper, who is responsible for political and constitutional reform, announced the membership and terms of reference of the commission in a written statement to the House on 18 March.

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Conservative, Wirral West

I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for his response. In the light of the European Court of Human Rights judgments that have gone against the will of the British public by giving prisoners the right to vote, allowing paedophiles to be removed from the sex offenders register and preventing deportation of those considered dangerous to the country’s national security, specifically when could the British Bill of Rights be introduced and how will the Deputy Prime Minister ensure that it will reflect the will of the British public in law?

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This is a fallacy, designed (it seems to me) to undermine the human rights act and to mislead. It is not clear whether Ms McVey is deliberatelu misleading, or whether she has simply read the tabloid reports of the court judgements, rather than the judgements themselves. I both cases (prisoner votes and the sex offenders...

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Photo of Nick Clegg Nick Clegg The Deputy Prime Minister , Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office), Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

The commission will be looking at the case for a British Bill of Rights, building on and incorporating all the protections and rights that are already in domestic legislation, translating the rights and responsibilities of the European convention on human rights and building on them, but I think that there is a lot more that the commission can do as well. The Court, by universal acknowledgment, is not working as well as it should. There is a backlog of 140,000 cases, for instance. The Government will assume the chairmanship of the Court in November, and the commission will be providing us, I hope, with useful input on how we can improve the performance of the Court in Strasbourg.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Will the Deputy Prime Minister give the House an assurance that a British Bill of Rights will be written by Members of this House and not by the judges, particularly as they now appear to be making what many of us consider to be unconscionable orders that prevent constituents talking to their MPs? That must be unconscionable, so any Bill of Rights must be written by this House and not by the judges.

Photo of Nick Clegg Nick Clegg The Deputy Prime Minister , Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office), Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Clearly a British Bill of Rights, as I have said, must build on and incorporate the rights that British citizens already enjoy. British judges, parliamentarians and politicians have a long and proud tradition of drafting rights, which apply not only in this country but in others. I think back to the role of Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, the Lord Chancellor in the Churchill and Macmillan Governments, who played such a crucial role in drafting the European convention on human rights in the first place.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Treasury)

In 2007 the current Prime Minister said that the Human Rights Act 1998 had to go. Last May the Deputy Prime Minister said that anyone who tampered with it did so at their peril. Could he tell us who is right?

Photo of Nick Clegg Nick Clegg The Deputy Prime Minister , Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office), Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

It is no secret that the two coalition parties in this Government do not see eye to eye on this issue. That is why we have formed a commission that is composed of—[ Interruption. ] I know that Opposition Members cannot bear the idea that in Governments there are perhaps people who have civilised discussions from differing points of view. The mere concept of different politicians in the same Government seeking agreement from different positions is alien to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, but it is what we do, and do very well, in this Government.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

I welcome the huge number of Liberal Democrat MPs here today to show support for their current leader at the final Deputy Prime Minister’s questions before the local and national elections. I also welcome the president of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, who is here today.

Mr Speaker, I am sure you will have been interested by the previous answer that the Deputy Prime Minister gave to the question about his commitment to the Human Rights Act, but Lord McNally in the other place and the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change have said that, if the coalition Government considered getting rid of that Act, that would be the time for them to consider getting out of the coalition Government. It is a straightforward question: does the Deputy Prime Minister agree with them or not?