The prime minister’s plans for a ‘British bill of rights’ are in tatters today as the commission he formed to tackle the issue publishes its final report with two commission members dissenting from its contents.
Lady Kennedy (Helena Kennedy QC) and Philippe Sands QC have written a dissenting argument.
Speaking to the Gazette, Kennedy (pictured) described a ‘serious canyon of difference between people on the commission’. As a result, she was unwilling to put her name to a report that sought simply ‘to paper over those differences’.
Following the resignation in March of Dr Michael Pinto-Duschinsky that leaves only five of the eight original commission members supporting the report.
Kennedy said: ‘The real differences are that there are a number of conservatives on the commission who really want to leave the European convention [on human rights] and European court behind.’ The report tries ‘for a consensus around the idea that at some point there could be a UK bill of rights’.
In so doing, Kennedy added, the commission had departed from its terms of reference: ‘The terms of the commission were very clear – to build on the European convention.’
Although the report has been described as ‘vague’ on many points, she highlighted the danger of the it being misused by the prime minister as the basis to ‘decouple’ from both the convention and the European Court of Human Rights.
‘That could be very attractive to the leadership of the Conservative party now, who are having to throw red meat to their Europhobes, but who know they cannot leave the European Union,’ Kennedy said. The idea of leaving the EU ‘is a non-starter because of what it would do to the economy’. A British bill of rights would ‘allow such a decoupling’, she added.
‘But if they give them this – give them a British bill of rights, and let them decouple from the European court it will seem like a victory for the Europhobes and we’re not prepared to have any part in sustaining that.’