Sir Roger Gale
Member of Parliament for North Thanet (Margate, Herne Bay & The Villages)
Gale's View - British Bill of Rights
October 14th 2015
One of the most fundamental of our `human rights` is that of national sovereignty. That is why I shall support a "British Bill of Rights" when it is brought before the House of Commons.
While I accept that it is not the case in every State within the wider Europe we are, in the UK, fortunate in having both a democratically elected parliament and a fully independent Supreme Court. It is therefore, in my view, quite wrong that any external body should be allowed to impose its will, based on the findings of in some cases less than well-qualified judges, upon our sovereign nation.
As a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, from which I have recently returned, I have seen at first hand the failings of an attempt to create a one-size-fits-all solution to perceived but not common problems.
There are, for example, still a number of "European" countries - France and Malta amongst them - in which prisoners are kept for many months and even years without trial in clear breach of the Convention and with impunity. This was debated by the Council of Europe a week ago, with no indication that any action would be taken against those of the forty-seven Member States that break the rules.
It is said that for Britain to repeal the Human Rights Act would "send out the wrong signal" to rogue States but I can see no sign that the Russian Federation, although still allowed to remain a Member State of the Council of Europe, pays any attention at all to its obligations under the Convention. It has not prevented the invasion and annexation of the territory of other sovereign countries and it has neither curbed Putin`s expansionist ambitions nor enhanced human rights within the borders of his domestic state.
The European Court of Human Rights, (ECHR) which is the judicial arm of the Council of Europe, (the organisation that wants to give voting rights to convicted criminals) is, notwithstanding attempts at modernisation and reform, still an inefficient and wasteful organisation with a huge backlog of cases that meddles in matters in which it should have no say while failing to deliver justice for those who have looked to it as a last resort. (I have a particular constituency case in mind).
For all of these reasons I believe that it is absolutely right that, honouring another clear Manifesto commitment, the Human Rights Act should be repealed and replaced with a British Bill of Rights that reflects the true and just needs of the people of this United Kingdom and the will of a democratically elected parliament, and that is overseen, interpreted and enforced by an independent Supreme Court that we can trust.
I cannot, therefore, support the claims of those who see the current Human Rights Act, which enshrines the European Convention in British law, as a panacea for all ills. It is a deeply flawed piece of legislation introduced and enacted by a government that believed that a "communitaire" and European approach to Human Rights was more important than our national sovereignty. I do not share that belief and I shall most certainly vote enthusiastically for the repeal of the Act and its replacement with a measure more well-suited to the needs of the Country that I am proud to represent.