Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cameron: "We are going to fight in Europe for changes to the way the European Court works"

Writing in the Sunday Express, David Cameron returns to one of his favourite pre-election (ie pre-coalition) themes. He writes:
We are looking at creating our own British Bill of Rights. We are going to fight in Europe for changes to the way the European Court works and we will fight to ensure people understand the real scope of these rights and do not use them as cover for rules or excuses that fly in the face of common sense.
This proposal was dismissed by the present Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, as ‘xenophobic and legal nonsense’, and the present Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, lauded the ECHR in his maiden speech in 1997, in which he said:
The incorporation of the European convention on human rights into our national law is something that, although challenging, is nevertheless desirable if it can be done without diminishing the sovereignty of Parliament.
So, with the two most senior legal minds in the Cabinet opposed in principle to derogation from or revocation of the European Convention (or repeal of the Human Rights Act), it is not at all clear how the Prime Minister can 'fight in Europe' without first fighting in his own Cabinet and tearing his party asunder (yet again) over the issue of 'Europe'.

Never the less, a Commission on a Bill of Rights was established by the Government on 18 March 2011, and is seeking your views (by 11 November). But it is a bizarre political process, the outcome of which is more than a little pre-ordained. There is a feeling of being marched to the top of the hill only to be marched all the way down again in a few years time, and nothing will have chaged.

We already have a Bill of Rights. It was the legislative expression of the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688, and was part of the deal under which William and Mary became joint rulers, giving Parliament, rather than the monarch, power over taxation, criminal law and the military. It is not a mere Act of Parliament, but a foundational constitutional treaty of the order of Magna Carta, the Act of Settlement 1701 and the Act of Union 1707. Does Mr Cameron’s new Bill of Rights imply the repeal of any of the provisions in these treaties? If so, it must be done expressly, for the doctrine of implied repeal may not be applied to constitutional statutes.

Is the Conservative Party (of all parties) really proposing to unsettle the Settlement of the relationship between the Monarch and Parliament, and the establishment of the Church of England?

A British Bill of Rights will not be binding on future Parliaments for Parliament may not bind its successors. A new Bill of Rights would, once passed into law, have no more chance of surviving a subsequent parliament or of guaranteeing rights than any other Bill passed by both Houses and rubber-stamped by Her Majesty. What is the point of enshrining any such rights in a Bill, the provisions of which may be revoked at any point by any future parliament?

The Prime Minister has said that he wants the new Bill of Rights to be somehow ‘entrenched’, to have a greater degree of ‘permanence’. But, if followed to its logical conclusion, this would give ultimate power to unelected judges, rather than to elected politicians, and so judicial activism is not mitigated. Is the Conservative Party really proposing to abolish the supremacy of Parliament?

Mr Cameron’s latest indignation is caused not by the remote judgement of unaccountable judges in Strasbourg, but by a ruling from England’s ‘Supreme Court’, which is a (New Labour) creation of the UK Parliament. The Court is not so supreme insofar as it is subject to the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. Section 2 of the Human Rights Act 1998 instructed UK judges to follow judgements from the ECHR: ‘A court or tribunal determining a question which has arisen in connection with a Convention right must take into account any (a) judgment, decision, declaration or advisory opinion of the European Court of Human Rights...’

So, slowly, in words of one syllable, repeat after His Grace: “A new Bill of Rights will not stop the rot.”

We simply need to re-assert those liberties enshrined in Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights 1689, which are binding treaties drawn up during the age of revolution to enshrine the liberties of the people and define the limitations of government. The US Constitution came from the enlightenment mind of the 18th-century Englishman (or Scotsman). It is to England's eternal loss that such principles were never set in stone during that era. A modern (or postmodern) Bill of Rights will never articulate the same inviolable principles, especially if it seeks to ‘build on’ the European Convention.

A modern British Bill of Rights would need to refer to individual rights, which necessarily infringe the rights of others. It could not, for example, guarantee freedom of religion. The US Bill of Rights is actually the triumph of the Anti-Federalists:
The idea of adding a bill of rights to the Constitution was originally controversial, and was strongly opposed by many notable American statesmen, including Alexander Hamilton. In Federalist No. 84, published during the Philadelphia Convention on May 28, 1788, Hamilton argued against a "Bill of Rights," asserting that ratification of the Constitution did not mean the American people were surrendering their rights, and therefore that protections were unnecessary: "Here, in strictness, the people surrender nothing, and as they retain every thing, they have no need of particular reservations." As critics of the Constitution referred to earlier political documents that had protected specific rights, Hamilton argued that the Constitution was inherently different. Unlike previous political arrangements between sovereigns and subjects in the United States, there would be no agent empowered to abridge the people's rights: "Bills of rights are in their origin, stipulations between kings and their subjects, abridgments of prerogative in favor of privilege, reservations of rights not surrendered to the prince. Such was Magna Charta, obtained by the Barons, sword in hand, from King John.

Finally, Hamilton expressed the fear that protecting specific rights might imperil rights that were not mentioned: "I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and in the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?"
A British Bill of Rights is supposed to embrace 'British values'.

Those would include the foundational principle of the Common Law, which is antithetical to the EU model of law, Corpus Juris. It has been found by experience that Common Law is the bulwark against state tyranny and the best guarantor of our liberties.

So, before the Prime Minister 'goes to fight in Europe', would it not be preferable to decide what ‘British values’ are and what we seek to preserve, lest we just placate the Liberal Democrats (not to mention Messrs Clark and Grieve) and perpetuate this dog's breakfast with more smoke and mirrors?


Blogger Gnostic said...

If fighting the EU means Cameron rolling over so that Rumpy Pumpy can tickle his tummy again, he'll be a world champion. As well as champion bullshi**er that is.

How can this weapons grade moron expect us to believe anything he says when he's got more U turns than a box of paperclips?

21 August 2011 at 11:05  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Your Grace

In the betting industry, they are known as 'mug punters'. These are the losers who keep going back to the shop trying to change the outcome. Only their long suffering woman holds out any hope. She has nothing else TO hope for.

In this case, WE are the long suffering partner. Our crafty gambler knows the outcome is the same as it always was / will be. Loser that he is, all he has left is a false hope for others to cling to.
I’m not buying into that...

21 August 2011 at 12:03  
Blogger UKIP said...

We've heard this all before from the fake Tories and Sham-Cam:

21 August 2011 at 12:28  
Blogger Span Ows said...

Actions not words and not 'false' actions. Before the EU and ECHR the British had perfectly apt and workable laws that looked after the rights of British citizens: it was never necessary to enshrine new rules to "make sure" our rights weren't whittled away, which of course is the result of all these new rights: we don't need a piece of paper to tell us we have a right to life! What was wrong with our "unwritten Constitution"?

"As the British Constitution is the most subtle organism which has proceeded from the womb and long gestation of progressive history, so the American Constitution is, so far as I can see, the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man."

William Gladstone

Charter of Liberties (1100)
Magna Carta, 1215
The Petition of Rights (1628)
English Bill of Rights (1688)
Act of Settlement (1701)
Acts of Union (1707)

...and a few more. What is happening however is this...

"Even under the best forms of government, those entrusted with power have, in time and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny."

Thomas Jefferson.

Word verification: gamism!

21 August 2011 at 12:53  
Blogger Paul said...

Your Grace,

With my earlier attempt at commenting having been eaten by the Interwebs, I will try again in shorter form.

There are, as you identify, various problems with Mr Cameron’s “sound bite” policy regarding a new Bill of Rights.

There are also cross-border issues to resolve. Scotland of course was not party of to the Bill of Rights in 1688. We instead had the Claim of Right in 1689. It had to deal with similar, though not identical, problems to those covered by the English Bill the previous year, but the fact remains that the Claim of Right is a fundamental part of the present UK constitution, in the same way as the Bill of Rights.

This too would need to be dealt with in promulgating a new Bill of Rights.

An acknowledgment in such a new Bill of Rights of the importance of the Common Law foundation of the law would also be inappropriate. In Scotland we are proud of the Civil Law roots of our system, and this is entirely distinct from the English system. Any attempt to “impose” the Common Law upon Scotland would be riding rough shod over the Treaty of Union, and therefore yet another difficulty.

Looking at matters going forward, and protecting the people from tyranny, the courts, especially the UK (not English) Supreme Court, have a vital role to play. As the politicians rage against the courts, this is almost an implied acknowledgment of the vital role the judges have in protecting the people from the State, according to Law. A strong and independent judiciary is therefore vital. As you point out, the giving of more power to the courts may create more problems, but the powers must either go to the judges or to the politicians. In whom do people have most confidence? Do we want the Supreme Court Justices to become as important and as well known as the Justices of the US Supreme Court? That may be inevitable.

The UK Supreme Court is of course basically a continuation of the former Judicial Committee of the House of Lords, but to emphasise its independence within the doctrine of the separation of powers, it was felt helpful to establish a new court outside Parliament and for the judges no longer to participate as legislators.

The addition of the European Convention on Human Rights directly to the law of the constituent parts of the UK meant, at the end of the day, that the rights under the ECHR could be vindicated in the UK courts without having to go through the time and complication of pursuing the matter to the European Court of Human Rights.

As you mention, Governments generally look to take as much power over its citizens as they can. Generally they view themselves as having any powers not specifically taken from them. The Scotland Act permits Holyrood to legislate in all areas except those “reserved” to Westminster. As time progresses, it is certain that Holyrood, no matter which party is in power, will look to stretch the limits in its favour.

Is it better to deal with protection of the people from the tyranny of the State by specifics or broad principle? A thorough and comprehensive document detailing specifics could be 10,000 pages long and not cover every situation. That is why the US Bill of Right, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention are declarations of principles, rather than specific Codes. As mentioned above therefore, this puts an ever greater burden upon the judges, and is that a route down which we should go?

I don’t claim to have answers to these conundra, or those raised by you, but I suspect David Cameron does not have them either. However, an announcement criticising “Europe”, lawyers, “Human Rights” and the judges never did a politician any harm in the court of public opinion

21 August 2011 at 13:33  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Words on a page cannot bind future generations no matter how explicit or inviolate. The US Constitution has been held to:

1. Affirm the legitimacy of homosexual marriage - which act would have been incomprehensible to the Founding Fathers. Homosexuality was after all a crime in every state in 1789.

2. Isolate religion from the Public sphere - which is the exact opposite of the Founding Father's intent. They intended to protect religion from the government, and not create a secular public square.

3. Protect pornography as political speech when it would have been prosecuted in 1789 as corrupting to public morals.

Just to name a few. Original intent means nothing when the meaning of words can be arbitrarily re-defined at the behest of nine judges. We don't really have a Bill of Rights. We have whatever the Supreme Court says we have ... oh, excuse me ... a 'Living Document.'


21 August 2011 at 13:34  
Blogger Weekend Yachtsman said...

Cameron is going to fight something
that comes from the EU?

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha


etc etc.

21 August 2011 at 14:05  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Your Grace, a mini-jeremiad and a small request from a naturalized Commonwealth citizen and a sworn and loyal subject of the Crown: The problem is as simple as it is profoundly frightening. If your country's Parliamentary, Common Law based system cannot return to its foundational principles and hold and defend its independence and integrity, it is not only Britain that will perish, but all other democracies as well. So much for civilization as we know and love it. Please fix this problem forthwith, You Grace. Thank you in advance.

21 August 2011 at 14:38  
Blogger Oswin said...

One wonders what English Viking would say on this topic? I do hope that he manages to sort-out his 'Google' thingywhatsit. I miss his volcanic presence.

21 August 2011 at 15:01  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...


Yes, I noticed EV's absence as well. If he were to contact me through His Grace, I'll gladly set him up under my account and give him a long he promises to keep me from actionable lawsuits or jail.

21 August 2011 at 15:32  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

Another Prime Minister promising to fight for Britain while stabbing her in the back. It has happened so many times it seems normal.

21 August 2011 at 19:05  
Blogger IanCad said...

Dave is playing with matches again.
A new British Bill of Rights will merely reflect the shallowness of our current culture.
The US Constitution, to which the Bill of Rights were shortly added, was a product of delegates who were essentially a Meritocratic Aristocracy. Arguably the best form of government yet devised.
The march of Democracy will ensure that any new B of R's will hasten our way to tryranny.

21 August 2011 at 20:20  
Blogger English Viking said...

Oswin and Avi,

I'm watching you, always watching you.

PS I decided that I was as tired of apologizing for (some of) my rants as HG was of deleting them, else admonishing me.

I would not wish to be a contributing factor to the loss of either the comments, or, perish the thought, the blog. As I cannot be trusted to maintain a civil tongue, I thought it better not to comment until I have learnt some self-control.

I'll let you know when I have.

O go on then, just this once;

Cameron is a top-class turd, an inveterate liar, a traitor and a black-heart. Anybody who believes anything he says needs their head looking into.

We already have a Bill of Rights. He just wants to introduce a new one that strips yet more liberties from the freemen.

21 August 2011 at 20:28  
Blogger non mouse said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

21 August 2011 at 20:31  
Blogger non mouse said...

Thank you, Mr. EV: Cameron is a top-class turd, an inveterate liar, a traitor and a black-heart. Anybody who believes anything he says needs their head looking into.

We already have a Bill of Rights. He just wants to introduce a new one that strips yet more liberties from the freemen.

Well said.

21 August 2011 at 20:34  
Blogger non mouse said...

Your Grace, I wonder - "Human Rights in my Sights" --- is that the newspaper's heading, or did the podgy little lad agree to it? Perhaps the reason he cuts himself so often is that his language is so slippery,

And of this puppet appointed Commission that want our "views (by 11 November)." Armistice/Remembrance Day?

11/11/11. So memorable. Looks like another carefully constructed insult to the British People, then.

21 August 2011 at 21:40  
Blogger whitespacebug said...

Welcome back, Viking.

21 August 2011 at 22:03  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Welly, welly, welly-well. If it's not English Viking. The prodigal berserker returns from a bloody season of coastal raids and embarks on a solemn pilgrimage to self control. Until spring returns, the winds blow south and a-viking we go once more.

Not to worry, EV, we'll advocate on your behalf to His Grace. In accordance with timeless traditions, we will seek to distract and amuse him with bells on our hats and mirthful natter. And, no, don't beat yourself up, stay positive; with your latest assessment of Mr Cameron's qualities I already see tremendous progress in the way you tried to stay with the facts, avoiding personal attacks.

21 August 2011 at 22:19  
Blogger Celtic Viking said...

Why invite the Anglo Viking back?

His cussing, swearing, threats of violence and all round lack of self control, brings shame on his cousins across the sea.

English Viking go and learn some manners - nob head.

21 August 2011 at 22:20  
Blogger Celtic Viking said...


I never apologise. I'm sorry, it's just the way I am.

21 August 2011 at 22:22  
Blogger Dymphna said...

The P.M.'s words/ideas are a "dog's breakfast"? Oh my. And there I was just about to label them "airy fairy notions". However, a dog's breakfast perpetuated by smoke and mirrors is another thing entirely...why one can envision an eternity of refracted meals bouncing off one another whilst the poor dog starves.Thus, I was right: Cameron the Airy Fairiness Supreme.

Oh wait. I just described the EU "Constitution". Until we had some of Obama-generated legislation to glaze upon, I'd thought the 'Constitution' was quintessential bumf. Now I know 'twas but a bump on the bumf of our own legislative output last year. One can actually read the EU thing if one goes slowly. Even lawyers say the new laws can't be read...

This year, however, there is no more need for laws. Everything not legislated is being rammed down the throats of our citizenry via Executive Orders. Now there are some *genuine* dog breakfasts for you. If you rilly, rilly hate dogs, that is...

I think I'm in love with the Inspector General. Why doesn't he have a blog??

22 August 2011 at 02:15  
Blogger Oswin said...

Sadly, I can't help feeling that it all sounds like a preamble to eating several tons of crow - EU crow, that is; ours will doubtless be found to infringe European requirements/standards.

English Viking - waes haeil! :o)

Celtic Viking : sorry, but you just don't have that authentic charm; that certain 'something' - but hey, some do, and many do not ... that's life I guess.

22 August 2011 at 02:45  
Blogger len said...

What exactly is British?.

The E U strategy for destroying cultures with unrestricted immigration has worked pretty well?

22 August 2011 at 08:06  
Blogger bluedog said...

If Dave was serious he would simply repeal every piece of legislation enacted by the Blair/Brown junta, including the UK's accession to the Treaty of Lisbon.

But then Dave is playing games and buying time, so he won't.

22 August 2011 at 09:38  
Blogger peter_dtm said...

as I understood it; being a mere engineer, not some fancy lawyer type; the 1688 Bill of Rights is one of the few documents that binds ALL Parliaments.

It does not belong to Parliament but to the people of England.

It specifically reserves Sovereignty to the People; not to the Crown and not to Parliament.

Therefore the attempts by Parliament to give a foreign power (EU Courts; EU treaties; European or UN organizations) any say in our courts or Parliament are illegal.

This means ANY findings by the ECHR that claim to over rule a UK law (or Courts findings) are null. It matters not what the Government (or even Parliament) claim.

The ONLY place this can be decided is the Law Committee of the House of Lords.

Why has no Lawyer ever appealed this breach of our constitution ?

22 August 2011 at 12:25  
Blogger Celtic Viking said...


Do one.

22 August 2011 at 12:48  
Blogger Oswin said...

Celtic Viking:

Thank you, you prove my point beautifully.

22 August 2011 at 14:30  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...


22 August 2011 at 17:29  
Blogger leptronics-global said...

We already have a Constitution and a Bill of Rights, unfortunately, and this is how creeping EU tyranny works, 90% of Brits are totally unaware of this, well, they wouldn't be would they, Common law is not taught in schools nor have I ever seen anything on Common law on the Telly, there may have been programmes, but I've never seen them.

The British Constitution

22 August 2011 at 22:48  
Blogger Celtic Viking said...

That was the whole point. The Anglo Viking is uncouth and intemperate.

I'm not - nobhead.

24 August 2011 at 00:32  

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