22 November 2011
The Mission and Public Affairs Council of the Church of England
has published its Response to the Discussion Paper from the
Commission on a UK Bill of Rights.
Offering a clear "no" in answer to the question, "Do we need a
UK Bill of Rights?", the response goes on to argue that a UK Bill
of Rights would either re-state the provisions of the European
Convention on Human Rights, in which case it would be superfluous,
or would add to them, in which case the additional rights and
obligations would not be binding in the same sense as the
Convention and their status in UK law would be unclear.
If on the other hand the Bill attempted to restrict or abolish
Convention rights, it would be incompatible with the UK's
international obligations, the response argues; it is also unclear
what specific additional rights would be included in a UK Bill.
The response comments that the parties in the coalition
Government have diametrically opposed attitudes to human rights,
and therefore the proposal does not offer a coherent basis for
legislating on such an important subject.
Then the response offers five considerations in answer to the
question "Having regard to our terms of reference, are there any
other views which you would like to put forward at this stage?".
One point suggests that "some of the concerns driving the demand
for a UK Bill of Rights would be met by appropriate reforms of the
operation of the European Court of Human Rights", the final point
adding: "A better way forward might be increased use by the
European Court of the 'margin of appreciation', whereby variations
in the application of the Convention are allowed in view of the
diverse history, traditions and institutions of different
The full four-page response is available online here.