Having just returned from a Noah’s Ark holiday in the deep south west, I reached the sight of Mount Ararat (aka Divis) just ahead of the storm that engulfed the south’s motorway network around Dublin last Saturday, before making it back to London yesterday to be greeted with similar climes. More of that later maybe. In the meantime, a catch-up note developing Fair Deal’s post on Westminster’s Joint Committee’s backing for their eponymous subject, a British Bill of Human Rights. The long, fraught and still inconclusive debate on a Northern Ireland Bill offers some inspiration for a British process, it turns out ( rather to my surprise, I admit). The new Supreme Court replacing the Law Lords from next year would have to give ultimate rulings on both Bills. It would surely to wrong to enshrine fundamentally different rights for GB and NI, even allowing for the obvious differences. We badly need to hold an informed debate on the scope of the British and NI Bills and how they would would interact.Meanwhile for Slugger’s vast network of homebase lawyers and constitutional experts, I thought to dump the scope of current GB thinking on HR, as hosted by the Constitution Unit I’m associated with. First, here’s an introduction to a CU seminar report which also links to other developments in the field. Note the strong Irish input from Colin Harvey of Queen’s and a very smart young Dublin lawyer based at University College London, Colm o Cinneide.
Next, a short report of the seminar itself. Prof Harvey while urging caution, suggests the NI forum for HR might be a model for the UK process.
Then, the really meaty stuff from Justice which has strongly influenced Westminster thinking (scroll to “JUSTICE launches report on a British Bill of Rights” and see Chap 6 p109 et seq for conclusions)
Among the big HR themes.
Protection from terrorism vs individual rights.
Should there be economic rights like a right to health care?
HR Bills should be aimed at the citizen not the lawyers.
Should there be a declaration against future amendment?
Should rights be enshrined like the US Bill of Rights by definitive rulings by the new Supreme Court under US style separation of the powers or subject to parliamentary over-ride?
Next, a warning against “British values” becoming a distraction from developing an HR Bill.
Any sign of action from the British government? Very little, I fear, judging from this watery speech from the minister in charge of steering the debate, Michael Wills
Does that mean I’ve been wasting your time if you’ve got this far?
Not at all; it gives time for the debate to build and there is some chance of a forum being established.
Time too for David Cameron to develop a more sophisticated HR approach beyond damning “Europe” for allegedly forcing the Brits to go soft on terrorism.
And prospects for the NI Bill? Under present political conditions, need you ask?
If you master all this you’ll be well on the way to your PhD. Or less dauntingly, if you skim, you’ll be better informed and primed to dig out those nuggets of controversy so beloved by the Slugger commentariat.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London