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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 June 2006, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Bill of Rights
Sunday AM, on Sunday 25 June 2006

David Cameron MP
David Cameron MP

Andrew interviewed the Conservative leader David Cameron who said his party would look at scrapping the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a new Bill of Rights.

Mr Cameron claimed existing human rights legislation was hindering the fight against crime and terrorism, at the same time as failing to protect people's civil liberties.

He said the Tories wanted a law that delivered "human rights with common sense".

Mr Cameron would set up a panel of eminent lawyers and constitutional experts to examine the issue more closely, and to consider whether such a Bill of Rights could be given special legal status.

He told Andrew: "Let's look at getting rid of the Human Rights Act and saying instead of that, instead of having an Act that imports, if you like, a foreign convention of rights into British law, why not try and write our own British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, clearly and precisely into law, so we can have human rights with common sense."

The Conservative leader stressed he was not proposing withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights, nor did he want to prevent people pursuing cases at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Mr Cameron also said there should be an early general election if Tony Blair stands down long before completing his third term.

He told Andrew: "I think if there's a very early change-over, then people haven't got what they voted for and I think there'd be a very strong case for an early election."

Des Browne MP, Secretary for Defence
Des Browne MP, Secretary for Defence

Defence matters

The Defence Secretary, Des Browne, also joined Andrew live from Edinburgh. He said he was supportive of the Iraqi government's reconciliation plan, which would offer an amnesty to some people who've been involved in the insurgency if they haven't committed serious crimes.

"Of course it is a risk. It's a risk that the Iraqi government are contemplating. Can I just say however that people ought to recognise that this is a significant indication of the progress that the government of national unity has made in Iraq that they are able to start to address these issues.

"There is no conflict in the world that has been resolved without dealing with the issue of reconciliation. And reconciliation requires risks - whether it is in South Africa, whether it was in Northern Ireland or the Balkans, it requires risks."

Amnesty 'progress'

The Defence Secretary referred to the proposed amnesty to detainees in Iraqi jails as a "massive step forward" towards normalisation of the country.

He acknowledged that the amnesty plan represented a "risk", but compared the situation to those in Northern Ireland, South Africa and the Balkans, where reconciliation was a necessary, if difficult, part of recovery from conflict.

Referring to the recent debate on Trident, Mr Browne held out the possibility of a vote in Parliament over whether Britain should renew its independent nuclear deterrent.

Mr Browne today made clear that he expected ministers to reach a firm view by the end of this year on whether or not Trident, and the Vanguard submarines which carry it, should be replaced or renewed.

"We need to marshal the facts, we need to marshal the issues, we need to marshal the arguments and the options. It is the responsibility of Government ministers to make decisions, then those decisions, of course, can be subject to parliamentary debate.

But we need to make recommendations to put forward to Parliament.

He made clear that ministers would have to take into account the changed nature of the threats facing Britain before deciding whether to recommission a system designed for the now-vanished Cold World era of conflict with the Soviet Union.

Ministers would have to decide "in the modern world with the risks and threats that exist, whether a nuclear deterrent plays a part in the protection of our country and our allies," he said.

"I'm becoming increasingly aware in this job of the diverse nature of the threat, not just potentially state threats but non-state threats too".

Marc Klaas, Founder KlaasKids, USA
Marc Klaas, Founder KlaasKids, USA

Megan's Law

Andrew also spoke to an American activist who advocates Megan's Law which allows communities in the United States to know details about convicted paedophiles living in their areas.

Carl Klaas, the founder of the KlaasKids organisation set up after the abduction and murder of his young daughter, believes that Megan's law increases security for young children.

But the former Home Office minister, Angela Eagle, told Andrew that she was against the introduction of a British version of "Megan's Law". Ms. Eagle said there were serious problems:

"Well we have a 97% compliance with the sex offenders register over here. That's very much lower - I think about 15% - in America.

"The people who are registered and living in communities in Britain are known to the police, the police often make their presence then known to local people who need to know.

"The issue is what the consequences of making that information available to everyone.

"And we had a little hint of that a few years ago in Portsmouth on the estate where we had a riot.

"What often happens is that paedophiles are targeted - but also people who are odd or don't fit in. People who are accused of being paedophiles are then also targeted and subject to vigilante action."

Cycle of violence

Ms Eagle said that the Labour party could face "difficulty" if it tried to introduce a law to allow the public to know where paedophiles live and said she was "very worried" about the prospect of a "Megan's Law" in the UK, insisting that more should be done to treat offenders.

"Child abuse is an appalling cycle of violence.

"It needs to be stopped," she said "Above all we need to protect children. I am not convinced Megan's Law does it."

She continued "I think there will be difficulty in the Parliamentary Labour Party if attempts were made to introduce laws - like the education reform - which are

based on assertion not evidence. "We have got to look at the evidence of what works to protect children. The issue is what the consequences are of making that information available to everyone.

"What often happens is that paedophiles are targeted, but also people who are odd or don't fit in, people are accused of being paedophiles and then also targeted and subject to vigilante action".

Tennis legend

The tennis legend Martina Navratilova joined Andrew ahead of this year's Wimbledon Championships to discuss her career, and the prospects for British tennis in the near future.

She explained how her exercise and diet routine allows her to play competitive mixed doubles at the highest level in her fiftieth year.

The newspapers were reviewed by the American crime writer, Reggie Nadelson, and the Conservative peer, Lord Tebbit.

Reggie Nadelson and Lord Tebbit
Newspapers reviewed by Reggie Nadelson and Lord Tebbit

Grandee doubts

Lord Tebbit expressed his doubts about David Cameron's proposal for a Bill of Rights.

He told Andrew: "I worry when he says things like bringing in a new British Bill of Human Rights, abolishing the Human Rights Act, but staying in the European Convention.

"That would mean that people would find the law would be different - British law and European law.

"European law would override it and we would be back where we are now, but in a bigger muddle perhaps."

Sunday AM returns on Sunday 02 July at 09.00am on BBC One.


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