Why we must scrap the Human Rights Act
In his weekly Hayes in the House column, MP Sir John Hayes advocates scrapping the Human Rights Act.
Five years ago the people of Britain voted to ‘take back control’ of our country. Yet, while the result of the 2016 EU referendum has now been honoured, we cannot be said to have truly wrestled back control – because the transfer of sovereignty from the people’s Parliament to Brussels was just part of a process by which the liberal elite has gained control over our lives.
The transformation of our constitution handed power to unelected bodies stuffed with likeminded people. Even more damagingly, it established a legal straitjacket around our politics, taking the power to determine what we say, do and even dare to think. While the architect of these reforms, Tony Blair, is now disempowered and diminished, the influence of the changes he championed continue to pervade politics. In fact, in many ways, we continue to live in Blair’s Britain.
Underpinning this system is the assumption that important decisions cannot be left to the people or, by extension, those they choose to speak for them.
The Human Rights Act handed power to unelected judges, both at home and abroad, meaning that Britain
remains tied to a foreign court via the European Convention on Human Rights.
As the former Supreme Court Judge, Lord Sumption, has concluded, the European Convention is an example of a ‘dynamic treaty’, one that enables the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg to alter our law as it sees fit, even if this means riding roughshod over our constitution. As such, the court can be said to be a parliament established beyond our jurisdiction. Over the last 20 years the court in Strasburg has greatly expanded its scope – extending the meaning of the European Convention well beyond the original intentions of its authors, a process described by Sumption as ‘mission creep’. In particular, the Court has used the ‘right to a private life’, enshrined in the convention to pass judgement on everything from immigration and asylum to Parliamentary procedure, and even planning law.
For a generation or more it was the height of intellectual fashion to believe in a, so-called, ‘progressive liberal majority’, keen to embrace the continental principles of abstract rights and written constitutions, rather than time-honoured traditions of English common law. Though this narrative ran counter to the unique character of British history since the Reformation, anyone who questioned the ‘right on’ smartness of ideas like incorporating the European Convention of Human Rights into our law, was dismissed as out-of-date.
Which is why the people’s democratic decision to leave the European Union was greeted with disdainful distaste by the liberal bourgeoisie. The results of the EU referendum and the 2019 General Election demonstrated beyond doubt that the so-called ‘progressive majority’ does not exist and never did. Yet, leaving the EU will not alone wrestle power away from a cosseted liberal establishment. The structure of the new state remains in place. But, more significantly, so-called, ‘progressives’ remain in control of so much of public life because they continue to set the terms of debate. In the opinion of the sanctimonious liberal elite, notions of identity and natural rights are not to be questioned.
Exacerbated by judicial activists, keen to take advantage of the creeping power of the courts, the Government’s ability to conduct its business is being curtailed. The Home Secretary has been a particular target with her efforts to deport foreign criminals and prevent illegal migrants crossing the channel being routinely hampered.
Brexit should not be seen as the end of a journey, but the beginning of a new chapter in Britain’s Island story. One in which the people’s priorities, not the pronouncements of the out of touch, high-handed liberal left, will be our guiding light. Now is the time for the Government to definitively take back control by scrapping the Human Rights Act.