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U.K. Bill of Rights Commissioner Resigns

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U.K. Bill of Rights Commissioner Resigns

Post  Panda on Mon 12 Mar - 1:08

UK bill of rights

Bill of rights commissioner resigns over bypass of Commons

Michael Pinto-Duschinsky claims commission set up by Ken Clarke and Nick Clegg has sidelined parliament and the PM

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Conal Urquhart

guardian.co.uk, Sunday 11 March 2012 16.26 GMT
Article history

Michael Pinto-Duschinsky said he was resigning from a commission set up to examine the need for a British bill of rights because parliament was being sidelined. Photograph: BBC

A government commission set up to examine the establishment of a British bill of rights has "sidelined parliament and the prime minister", one of the commissioners has said after his resignation.

Michael Pinto-Duschinsky said he was forced to resign because of his belief that the UK parliament, rather than the European court of human rights, should have the final decision on issues of human rights. He claimed his fellow commissioners were ignoring the prime minister's desire to reassert the sovereignty of Westminster over the European court.

"After one year it is now clear that it has been intended all along to issue a report in favour of the status quo," Pinto-Duschinsky told the BBC's Sunday Politics show. "We have actually considered the question of parliamentary sovereignty only once in the whole year that we have been in existence."

The commission was set up to examine the possibility of a British bill of rights incorporating the European convention on human rights. Eight commissioners were appointed by Ken Clarke, the minister for justice, and Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister. It is expected to deliver its recommendations later this year.

Pinto-Duschinsky said the commissioners had been selected to reflect the views of Clarke and Clegg that there was no need for a repatriation of powers to parliament.

"The commission answers to Ken Clarke. He and Nick Clegg set it up and selected the chairman. His civil servants run the commission and staffing. His hands are everywhere," he said.

"He [Clarke] is following the agenda of the human rights establishment, which is well represented on the commission. In doing so he is sidelining not only parliament but also the prime minister, and I consider that disloyal."

Clarke said: "I'm sorry that differences over process within the commission have led to Dr Pinto-Duschinsky's resignation.

"I have played no part personally in the workings and deliberations of the commission, which is independent of the government. I hope it is now able to complete its task and produce its report towards the end of this year."

Sadiq Khan MP, Labour's shadow justice secretary, said: "The human rights commission appears in disarray. Reports of resignations and tensions are a symptom of the coalition placing their survival ahead of fundamentally important issues like human rights protection."

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said she was aware of problems within the commission but that Dr Pinto-Duschinsky's letter of resignation had not yet been received.

"We are aware that there have been some internal difficulties within the commission on process rather than policy," she said. "The Ministry of Justice has received a letter to that effect from the commissioners and we will be responding in due course."

It is understood that the chairman of the commission, Sir Leigh Lewis, and six other members wrote to Clarke saying that Pinto-Duschinsky's presence was "impeding its progress".

A spokeswoman for the commission said that it was making "good progress on its work and will continue to do so".

"We have already discussed the issues of parliamentary sovereignty and democratic override at length," she said. "The commission will issue its final report to government by the end of the year in accordance with its terms of reference."

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Re: U.K. Bill of Rights Commissioner Resigns

Post  Panda on Tue 13 Mar - 6:41

By Christopher Hope, Senior Political Correspondent

10:00PM GMT 12 Mar 2012


Emails and internal papers passed to The Daily Telegraph reveal the Bill of Rights Commission is riven by division and unlikely to agree final proposals later this year.

The lack of agreement will make it difficult for the Prime Minister to persuade his Liberal Democrat colleagues to agree to a new British Bill of Rights when it reports back.

This could mean that any plans to replace the Human Rights Act, which currently enshrines the European Convention of Human Rights in UK law, will be pushed back until after the next election, which is expected to be held in 2015. The leaked emails and papers reveal:

The Commission could publish as many as three different reports from the chairman Sir Leigh Lewis and its different factions, allowing the Government to claim that it is split and so ignore its findings;

Sir Leigh, a former Whitehall mandarin who the papers disclose came close to quitting last week and last year, was criticised by one Conservative member Anthony Speaight QC as being “provocative and bullying”, and trying to “pick us off one by one”

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Revealed: Highlights from leaked emails and official papers
12 Mar 2012

Any new Bill of Rights law might only apply to England to avoid offending the Scots ahead of the key independence vote, likely in 2014;

Ken Clarke, the Justice secretary, was warned by that allowing MPs to vote down unpopular decisions by the European Court was like a throwback to Nazi Germany, when a legislative assembly passed “many of its most objectionable laws”.

The leaks have come after the academic Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, one of the four Tory members of the nine-strong Commission, resigned, claiming that the Commission was rigged by Europhiles such as deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Last night a Conservative MP called for Ken Clarke, the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, to go, claiming that the Commission set up to look at the idea of a British Bill of Rights was "not really up to the job".

Douglas Carswell MP said: "If we want change, and I want change, we need to get ourselves a new justice secretary."

Axing the controversial Human Rights Act - which is blamed for stopping Britain deporting dangerous foreign offenderss and replacing it with a British Bill of Rights - was one of Mr Cameron’s key Conservative commitments at the last election.

The Coalition agreement committed the Government to “investigate the creation of a British Bill of Rights” through a new Commission but stopping short of legislating.

The Commission started work last year and is due to report by December, however the leaks show Sir Leigh is concerned that it is unlikely to agree on a final report.

In a paper discussed at the Commission’s last meeting on February 29, titled ‘The Way Ahead’, Sir Leigh said that it was likely the Commission would release reports from the Conservative and Lib Dem representatives, with a third report from him.

He said: “It is already clear that we are likely to be far apart on a number of key issues and that we should already be planning on, in effect, a split report – at least in part - leaving me free, as the Chair, to put forward my own views in addition.

“My own view is that, while that may be where we end up, it should not be where we begin not least because I think it would represent a missed opportunity to say some things on which we might be able to agree across the political divide.”

Sir Leigh said that a divided Commission would make it easy for the Government to ignore its conclusions: “I was always struck in Government at how easy it was for Government to ignore select committee reports where the committee had simply divided along party political lines and conversely how difficult it was to do so where a committee had come to an agreed report.”

Sir Leigh also warns that he was worried that the Commission had failed to deliver on its promise to canvas the views of members of the public on human rights law.

He adds: “I sense I may be alone in continuing to worry about the requirement in our terms of reference to consult with the public. But I simply do not think that anything we have done up to now, or have currently planned, discharges that responsibility.”

Other papers presented to the Commission for its 29 February meeting show that its members were worried that proposing a new “British Bill of Rights” could create “further constitutional tension” with Scotland.

It says: “In the view of many organisations and individuals in Scotland further constitutional tension might arise from any attempt to respond… to an issue which was seen as primarily an English one and which, in the view of many in Scotland, did not arise to the same extent or at all in Scotland.”

Asked about the divisions on the Commission, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The work of the Commission continues. These are difficult issues and I would expect there to be a lot of debate about them.



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