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Last Updated: Friday, 20 August, 2004, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Tories to end 'culture of claims'
David Davis
Mr Davis says the human rights system rewards troublemakers
The "human rights" industry has created a compensation culture which limits freedoms and costs Britain 10bn a year, says Tory spokesman David Davis.

Writing in the Spectator magazine he argued: "The rights culture... is so deeply rooted in society that we have lost all common sense".

Mr Davis also claimed the Human Rights Act is the "worst emanation" - of the compensation culture.

The article comes as the Tories prepare to set out plans to review the act.

We need to think about cutting the cancer of litigation out of the public services altogether
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis

Mr Davis gives the example of a serial murderer who successfully demanded the delivery of hard-core pornography to his prison cell because of his right to information.

He also points to cases like that of the Girl Guide, whose parents won 3,500 after she singed her fingers on cooking sausages.

Citing a doubling of the number of compensation claims against schools and hospitals since 1997, Mr Davis argues the fear of litigation leads doctors to practise "defensive medicine" and stops teachers taking school trips.

"We need to think about cutting the cancer of litigation out of the public services altogether, except where a public servant may be said to have recklessly endangered those in his charge," he writes.

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"We need to think about how to limit liabilities on company directors and charity trustees, how to "sunset" health and safety legislation and how to end the distorting effect of discrimination law which positively encourages claims on the basis of race and sex."

Echoing party leader Michael Howard's recent speech on law and order, he calls for a "culture of responsibility and common sense" to be nurtured.

'Troublemakers'

But Mr Davis stresses that "leaving the individual defenceless" against the state or the criminal is not an answer.

The problem, he says, is that the human rights system "rewards compensation chasers and criminal troublemakers".

Senior Employment Rights Officer at the Trades Union Congress Hannah Reed said employment law and discrimination legislation were key to ensuring basic standards are observed in the work place.

She added "Where the TUC believes litigation should be the last resort it is very important that individuals should have access to justice and that their basic rights are protected."

A set of plans to deal with the issue are expected to be unveiled by the Tories next week.

'Balance'

A Conservative Party spokeswoman said they had been looking at what areas of the Human Rights Act should be rewritten and what should be scrapped.

"We've had a lot of people saying they don't want the situation where our kids can't go on school holidays."

"Where there is a duty of care for example and someone breaches that there has to be compensation. But when you have people who are just pushing for it - that's different," she added.

"It's about making sure that we get the balance right."

The European Convention on Human Rights was adopted into UK law in 1998 under the Human Rights Act.

It meant that citizens no longer had to take their case to Europe to enforce rights contained in the convention but could make challenges in the British courts.


SEE ALSO:
UK 'now has compensation culture'
18 May 04  |  Business
Compensation culture 'urban myth'
28 May 04  |  Politics


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