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Last Updated: Monday, 23 August, 2004, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
Tories to review Human Rights Act
David Davis
Mr Davis says the Human Rights Act has had a serious effect on the operation of law
A commission to review in detail the Human Rights Act is to be set up by the Tories, shadow home secretary David Davis has announced.

The 1998 Act has given rise to "too many spurious rights" and fuelled a compensation culture which is "out of all sense of proportion", he said.

The review will consider reform, repeal or replacement of the act, he added.

But Constitutional Affairs minister Lord Filkin insisted the Act had not produced a "deluge of claims".

The commission will be appointed by the Tories in October and its report would be ready before the general election, he said.

Mr Davis believes the increase in claims for compensation is the result of a greater emphasis on people's rights as opposed to their own responsibilities.

All too often it seems to give criminals more rights than the victims of crime. This has to stop
David Davis
shadow home secretary

"Britain is a country with a long-standing tradition of respect for human rights and civil liberties. However, the Human Rights Act has given rise to too many spurious rights.

"It has fuelled a compensation culture out of all sense of proportion and it is our aim to rebalance the rights culture," he said.

The Tories decided to set up a "quality" commission to look into the Act as it was a "very serious and complex area of law which needs to be looked at in detail."

Mr Davis stressed that he was "not opposed to human rights" which were "worth fighting for."

Criminals

But the Human Rights Act was a "seriously malfunctioning Act of Parliament" and "all too often it seems to give criminals more rights than the victims of crime. This has to stop," he said.

However, Lord Filkin said the government had not seen and fundamental faults with the Human Rights Act.

He said: "The country is not in the grip of a compensation culture - this was the conclusion of a recent independent report by the Better Regulation Taskforce.

"Overall accident claims actually fell last year by 9.5%."

He did acknowledge that a "perception" of a compensation culture was damaging and said the government was determined to tackle the situation.

Hard-core

But Mr Davis cited limitations put on the Home Office's ability to deport failed asylum seekers for criticisms.

But Mr Davis said the Tories did not intend to opt out of the European Convention on Human Rights which was adopted into UK law 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.

Purpose of Tory Rights Act review
Recommend changes to UK law to guarantee liberties
Check escalating volume of rights claims
Enable a firm, fair immigrations policy

If in government, the Conservatives would opt out of specific aspects of the convention, as the Labour government does now, he said.

Human Rights law expert Geoffrey Bindman QC said a very small number of cases were brought under the Human Rights Act - which simply allows British judges to rule on the European convention.

"It is simply not true that we have incorporated some European form or document.

"It very much follows the principles of basic rights - freedom from arbitrary arrest, and detention, freedom from torture, freedom of expression and right to a private life," he told BBC Radio 4's World at One.

"The idea of frivolous claims is unreal. It has been a bugbear for many years in the tabloid press. They have been looking for ludicrous cases. It isn't too difficult given we are a country of 60 million people," he added.

'Few claims'

Mark Harvey of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers said the so-called "compensation culture" was a myth and people like Mr Davis were simply "exacerbating" it.

General secretary of the GMB union, Kevin Curran, said: "The idea that there are such things as spurious rights is spurious in itself.

"If anything Britain needs strengthened rights for people."


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Mark Mardell
"The Conservatives are setting up a commission to look at this complex area of law"



SEE ALSO:
Tories to end 'culture of claims'
20 Aug 04  |  Politics
UK 'now has compensation culture'
18 May 04  |  Business
Compensation culture 'urban myth'
28 May 04  |  Politics


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