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Last Updated: Monday, 26 June 2006, 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
Q&A: Bill of Rights
Conservative leader David Cameron says he wants to shake up Britain's human rights laws. Here's a guide to his plans.

What's the big idea?

The Conservatives want to create a new British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act, brought into force by Labour in 2000. It would be Britain's first Bill of Rights for 300 years.

What is a Bill of Rights?

It sets out in one document all the rights every citizen is entitled to and which they can expect to have protected in the courts.

What would be different?

The Human Rights Act builds the European Convention of Human Rights into British law. The Tories say they want a Bill of Rights specifically designed to fit British needs and traditions.

Why do they want the change?

Mr Cameron says the Human Rights Act just is not working. It results in "perverse" judgements stopping suspected terrorists being deported whatever the circumstances, he says. And it has not protected key rights either, with ministers threatening the right to trial by jury in some cases.

Would it mean pulling out of the European courts system?

No. The Tories say they would keep Britain signed up to the European Convention of Human Rights. If people did not feel they have got justice in the British courts, they would still be able to pursue their cases in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Have other countries gone down this road?

America has perhaps the most famous Bill of Rights but the example the Tories are pointing at is Germany. Since 1949, Germany has had the Basic Law, which enshrines people's rights. Mr Cameron says it means European judges give Germany the "benefit of the doubt" because they can judge cases against a German document.

Would there be any wider constitutional changes?

There could be. To create the kind of entrenched human rights document needed, governments may be banned from forcing through changes, against the wishes of the House of Lords, to laws related to the fundamental rights. At the moment the Parliament Act can be used to force things through even if the House of Lords objects.

What do the Tories' critics say?

Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has already attacked the plan as "dangerous", saying it would create confusion about the best way to balance human rights with protecting the public. The Lib Dems support a Bill of Rights and a written constitution but stress that the European convention was written by British lawyers after World War II.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why Mr Cameron thinks Britain needs a bill of rights



SEE ALSO
Tory pledge on Human Rights Act
12 May 06 |  UK Politics
Tories to review Human Rights Act
23 Aug 04 |  UK Politics

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