I wrote a week or so ago about this government's shameful record of trying to use Human Rights for their own party political success. I hope that one thing I can do here over the next five years is protect these fundamental rights.
The Queen’s Speech two weeks ago rooted in the proud traditions of British history reminded us all of our responsibilities. Her Majesty has for many years demonstrated the great British virtues of honour and duty. Britain not only has one of Europe’s greatest records of protecting Human Rights, but one of the worlds. The current Tory government however is discussing whether to abandon our internationalist commitment to Human Rights.
In 1950 Britain helped create that first European Convention on Human Rights, indeed it was a Conservative Prime Minister that passed the bill in Parliament confirming our commitment. Respected Member of Parliament and Lawyer Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe indeed led the committee which produced the convention in the first place.
Despite the ECHR’s grounding in British Law, and the English Bill of Rights from 1689, Michael Gove, Justice Secretary and Theresa May, Home Secretary, want to withdraw from it. These leading members of the Conservative government want to enshrine rights in nationality, not humanity.
The Human rights we hold so dear come not from a quirk of birth, but from our shared humanity, and the Prime Minister should remember this in the face of words from his own cabinet. In 2013 the Prime Minister said that he wanted the Commonwealth to “remain a force for good in the world, promoting democracy and human rights”, he must not be dissuaded from this view. 800 years ago Britain led the world with Magna Carta, curbing the caprices of an overbearing executive, and we in Parliament and particularly opposition, must do the same today to ensure rights are protected not squandered. Britain cannot claim to promote Human Rights if we abandon them for a nationalist slogan.
Senior Government ministers may wish to join Belarus, but we cannot lead morally around the world, if we are hand-in-hand with Europe’s last dictatorship. Repealing the Human Rights Act is no way to appease extremists in the government. Having served on the Joint Committee on Human Rights for a few years now, I know that Human Rights are not something we can take for granted, we have to fight for them at every stage.
Britain once led in Europe and on the world stage, we were a beacon of freedom and democracy to millions across the world searching for a better future. This Prime Minister has however, presided over the greatest decline in British influence in a generation. We have world leading universities but this Prime Minister has made it more difficult to come and study here. We have a world leading S-T-E-M sector, but this Prime Minister wants to reduce the number of skilled non-EU migrants allowed to migrate here. We have one of the most highly skilled armies in the world, but this Prime Minister wants to reduce it to its smallest size since the New Model Army.
The United Kingdom will never be able to match the United States or China in Population or GDP, but we can be cultural leaders. This Prime Minister seems content to preside over a slide into insignificance. Taking a risk, having a punt, having a go, may pump the Prime Minister up, but when he is risking not only Britain’s place in the world, but her role as a defender of Human Rights I feel deflated.
Virendra Sharma MP, Ealing, Southall