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£700,000 commission ends in split on UK Bill of Rights

A commission set up to examine the case for a British Bill of Rights has failed to come up with a unanimous conclusion, it emerged.

The panel was created last year by Prime Minister David Cameron to investigate whether powers should be repatriated from Brussels.

Seven of the nine legal experts believe there is a strong argument in favour of a UK Bill of Rights but two opposed such a move, warning it was “possibly even dangerous, with unintended consequences”.

Commission chairman Sir Leigh Lewis said: “We hope that our report, based as it is on extensive consultation, will help people to reach an informed view on the issues it covers.

“We are united in believing that there needs to be respect for the existence of different intellectually coherent viewpoints in relation to the human rights debate, and in believing that the debate needs to be well informed and not distorted by the stereotypes and caricatures that have all too often characterised it in recent years.

“We hope that all of those interested in these vitally important issues will read our report.”

The commission has faced criticism from Mr Cameron for its slow progress and one member, Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, quit in May, claiming it had been rigged by europhiles Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and former Justice Secretary Ken Clarke.

In the report, drawn up for Mr Clegg and current Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, the majority of experts said there was a strong argument in favour of a UK Bill of Rights that would “incorporate and build on” the UK’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

But Baroness Helena Kennedy and Professor Philippe Sands said the rest of the panel had failed to identify any shortcomings in the current system.

The Commission cost the taxpayer £700,000 – although this came under the allocated budget of £804,000.

Although the Commission did not publish a separate minority view report, the views of the minority were laid out in a separate section.

Baroness Kennedy and Prof Sands raised fears that some people would use a British Bill as a path towards withdrawal from the European Convention.

They believe some Commission members failed to stick to the terms of reference, specifically to investigate a Bill that “incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights enshrined in British law”.

The two members fear some members’ conclusions would be used to “decouple the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights”.

But Sir Leigh said the majority view – that there is a strong case for a British Bill – was based on sticking to the terms. He said the majority believed a British Bill of Rights would come to be seen as “owned by this country, by the people of this country, by the parliament of this country”.

 

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