Church of England says ‘no’ to Bill of Rights

The Church of England has delivered a “clear no” to proposals for a UK Bill of Rights.

The Church’s Mission and Public Affairs Council sets out its objections in a response to a discussion paper from the Government’s commission of inquiry on the proposed Bill.

In its response, the Church argues that a Bill which simply restates the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) would be “superfluous” and come “dangerously close to … ‘vain repetition’”.

One that restricts or abolishes rights enshrined in the ECHR would be “incompatible with the UK’s international obligations”.

If the Bill adds to ECHR provisions, then the status of the additional rights and obligations in UK law would be “unclear”, the Church argues.

It challenged the notion that a UK Bill of Rights would add value to the “already complex” framework of human rights law.

“Indeed it would risk adding further confusion, not least for those whom it was designed to benefit,” the response states.

David Cameron wants a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the ECHR into UK law.

The Commission on the proposals was set up by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke in March and is expected to produce its final report towards the end of 2012.

The Church said it was “false” to assume that a Bill of Rights would confer a degree of independence from the European Convention and the European Court, and address “human rights gone mad”.

It instead advised the Government to clear up the “widespread ignorance and misunderstanding” surrounding the European Convention and the Human Rights Act.

“An informed and expert assessment of the impact of human rights law should help to dispel myths and prejudices,” the Church said.

“Our expectation is that such an assessment would reveal that unacceptable and anomalous interpretations of human rights originate, not so much from the provisions of the Convention or the decisions of the courts, but from ill-judged statements and actions by politicians and public authorities.”