Over the last month since the election constituents have been emailing me asking me not to vote to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998. It’s a bit late! We’ve had the election and during the campaign I made explicit my determination to vote to repeal it. Indeed, the approach to the Act was a defining difference between the political parties. For my own part, I voted against the Act back in 1998 in the first place.
Some people seem to be under the extraordinary illusion that human rights began with the act in 1998, and that prior to that we lived in a dark age without any rights. What the 1998 Act did was to make the European Convention on Human Rights enforceable in our own courts, making our own judges follow the lead given by the judges in Strasbourg.
I am wholly opposed to this sort of rights legislation which I believe gives creative opportunities to judges to place some people above the law.
You may recall a spat back in 2011 when, in a speech at the Conservative Party Conference, Theresa May – the Home Secretary – condemned a judgement allowing a foreign criminal to avoid deportation on the grounds of his ‘ human right to a family life’ – because he owned a cat!
Now, it doesn’t matter if the fellow was spared deportation because of the cat, or some other circumstance, be it a lover or whatever. The fact is that he was placed above the law and spared the proper penalty for his crime. Had another individual done as he did, but without possessing a cat or having a lover, he would not have been spared. This is fundamentally unjust. It is, however, not only offensive to some abstract concept of justice, rather it is a significant practical problem: scores other offenders are walking our streets because judges have put their rights above the law, the will of Parliament, and the elected representatives of all our people.
I have a much more fundamental view of our human rights: I believe that we have the right to live as we please and do as we wish, so long as we do not break the law – which we are all equal before, and none of us – however mighty, is above. The real battle for those of us who value liberty is to constrain the ever-present legislative urge. Do not underestimate this struggle: the state, armed with all its coercive power, already extends into private aspects of our lives and homes which free Englishmen would never have tolerated in the past. This desire for ever more laws is almost universal: sometimes I wonder if am totally at odds with my constituents in opposing it; daily they write to me suggesting new laws to govern our lives as a remedy to some real or imagined problem: banning this or that, enforcing this or that. Heavens! Some even write demanding that it be compulsory to vote. The incessant demand for more law and regulation is the real threat to our liberty.
So called rights which place some people above the law, be they cat owning thieves, illegal immigrants or terrorists, undermines the fundamental principle of equality before the law, and ends up making a mockery of justice. The Human Rights Act 1998 should be consigned to the dustbin.