Parliamentary debate on the European Convention on Human Rights

On 19 May 2011, the House of Lords debated the European Convention on Human Rights, with a number of  peers expressing support for the Convention, for human rights and for the Human Rights Act.

Baroness Whitaker stated: ‘The domestication of the European Convention on Human Rights, via the Human Rights Act, far from licensing various kinds of absurd or even criminal behaviour, has achieved respectful, compassionate and fair treatment for very many of our fellow citizens oppressed by systems or bureaucracy or misguided or oppressive elements of the state, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, eloquently described. Enemies of red tape and bureaucracy should welcome the Human Rights Act’.

Lord Willis pointed out that the Convention ‘was inspired by Winston Churchill, was largely drafted by British lawyers and was seen after the horrors of totalitarian tyranny as a way of protecting the individual against the arbitrary power of the state. The Human Rights Act incorporates those protections into British law so that British citizens can seek them in British courts. Yet too often now, these rights are viewed as an irritant by politicians seeking easy headlines and by journalists who are eager to write them’.

In relation to the Bill of Rights Commission, Lord Lester of Herne Hill confirmed ‘I am privileged to serve on the Bill of Rights commission. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Wills, that I would not be there if I thought there was the slightest risk of weakening the current protection of human rights’.

Concluding the debate, Lord McNally, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, stated that ‘this country had an amazing role in creating the European Convention on Human Rights. We will go forward in the 21st century as firmly committed to that as the generation who, as was rightly said, experienced personally, at first hand, what happens when the state gets out of control-when it does not have checks and balances, and when there are no human rights’.

Click here for link to debate on parliamentary website

Click here for link to debate (Word version)