The Labour Party and the Conservatives have now published their Election manifestos. It will come as no surprise to anybody with an interest in the law that the parties have diametrically opposed views on whether Britain should continue to subscribe to the European Convention of Human Rights.
The HRA is one issue where no one can claim that there is no significant difference between the positions adopted by the main parties.
Labour’s manifesto celebrates the Human Rights Act as one of New Labour's main achievements. It advocates reform of the European Court of Human Rights without providing any further details as to what that would mean in practice.
“Thanks to the Human Rights Act, some of our most vulnerable citizens, including disabled people and victims of crime, have been given a powerful means of redress. The Conservatives want to leave the European Convention of Human Rights, and abolish the Human Rights Act. A Labour Government will stand up for citizens’ individual rights, protecting the Human Rights Act and reforming, rather than walking away from, the European Court of Human Rights. And we will make sure that access to legal representation, a cornerstone of our democracy, is not determined by personal wealth, but remains available to those that need it.
The Conservatives are unequivocally clear on their desire to scrap the HRA and introduce a British Bill of Rights. They will
“scrap the Human Rights Act and curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights, so that foreign criminals can be more easily deported from Britain. We have stopped prisoners from having the vote, and have deported suspected terrorists such as Abu Qatada, despite all the problems created by Labour’s human rights laws. The next Conservative Government will scrap the Human Rights Act, and introduce a British Bill of Rights. This will break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights, and make our own Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK. We will continue the £375 million modernisation of our courts system, reducing delay and frustration for the public. And we will continue to review our legal aid systems, so they can continue to provide access to justice in an efficient way.”
You can read Roger Sahota’s article for the Huffington Post in defence of the HRA here.