The Mission and Public Affairs Council of the Church of England has issued 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 states.”
Full response (only four pages, but a PDF).
The Mission & Public Affairs Council of the Church of England is the body responsible for overseeing research and comment on social and political issues on behalf of the Church. The Council comprises a representative group of bishops, clergy and lay people with interest and expertise in the relevant areas, and reports to the General Synod through the Archbishops’ Council.