March 11, 2012 8:31 pm

Academic accuses Clarke over bill of rights

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A Conservative member of a group set up by the government to decide whether the UK should have a bill of rights has resigned, accusing his fellow commissioners of sidelining parliament and the prime minister.

Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, an academic, said yesterday that the group was working under the direction of Ken Clarke, justice secretary, and Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, both prominent Europhiles, to maintain Europe’s powers on human rights policy rather than give more authority to parliament.

The commission was set up as the result of a coalition pledge to “investigate” a British bill of rights, incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights in UK law.

“The commission answers to Ken Clarke. He and Nick Clegg set it up and selected the chairman. His civil servants run the commission and staffing. His hands are everywhere,” Mr Pinto-Duschinsky told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme.

“[Ken Clarke] is following the agenda of the human rights establishment, which is well represented on the commission. In doing so, he is sidelining not only parliament but also the prime minister, and I consider that disloyal.”

The decision by the European Court of Human Rights to allow prisoners the vote caused particular concern among Tory MPs that UK sovereignty was being breached.

David Cameron, prime minister, has backed the repatriation of powers from Europe, saying UK laws should be made in parliament and not in the courts. But Mr Pinto-Duschinsky suggested that the prime minister’s perspective was being ignored.

“The commission has been consistently directed by the chairman, Sir Lee Lewis, away from consideration of parliamentary override,” he said. “After one year, it’s now clear that it’s been intended all along to issue a report in favour of the status quo.”

Mr Clarke said on Sunday that he had played “no part personally” in the workings and deliberations of the commission and emphasised that it was independent of government.

The commission seemed “in disarray” said Sadiq Khan, shadow justice secretary. “Reports of resignations and tensions are a symptom of the coalition placing their survival ahead of fundamentally important issues like human rights protection,” Mr Khan said.

“Papering over the coalition cracks risks playing hard and fast with legislation that empowers individual citizens to challenge the power of the state and take on vested interests.”

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