One of the thinkers behind the Conservatives’ plan for a British bill of rights to replace the Human Rights Act has called for a ‘grown-up’ debate between supporters and opponents of the idea.
Dr Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, author of the Bringing Rights Home paper published by thinktank Policy Exchange, told the Gazette that there is a ‘very real constitutional debate’ to be had about the relationship between the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the UK parliament.
We have never had an international court that tries to override parliamentary sovereignty on such a wide range of issues,’ he said, ‘we are in a totally new constitutional position’.
In his paper, published in 2011, Pinto-Duschinsky proposed that if negotiations with Strasbourg were unsuccessful, the UK should consider withdrawing and establishing the Supreme Court in London as the final appellate court, which would continue to take account of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The following year he resigned from the government’s commission set up to examine whether a British bill was needed, apparently after a clash with then justice secretary Kenneth Clarke.
The draft bill announced by the Conservatives last week is expected to echo some of the Policy Exchange points.
The paper, Protecting Human Rights in the UK, published last week, said that a Conservative government would put the text of the original convention into primary legislation and ‘ensure that parliament is the ultimate source of legal authority, and that the Supreme Court is indeed supreme in the interpretation of the law’.
Pinto-Duschinsky denied that there was a conflict between a parliamentary override and adherence to international standards of human rights.
‘By allowing this safety valve it legitimises the [Strasbourg] court,’ he said. ‘There is an area for grown-up discussion which will be imperilled by megaphone debates.’