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GOVERNMENT TO 'BRING RIGHTS HOME' ON 2 OCTOBER

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The Human Rights Act was given the green light today when home secretary Jack Straw signed an order giving full eff...
The Human Rights Act was given the green light today when home secretary Jack Straw signed an order giving full effect to the Act from 2 October this year.

From that date the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) will become a full part of UK law, meaning that everybody will be able to claim their rights through UK judges in UK courts.

The UK ratified the ECHR in 1951 The UK parliament and governments have been complying with these rights for nearly 50 years and implementing decisions of the ECHR in Strasbourg. The HRA will better safeguard these rights by making them more accessible.

Signing the commencement order, the home secretary said: 'The government's objective is to promote a culture of rights and responsibilities throughout our society. This Act will make people more aware of the rights they already have but also balances these rights with responsibilities to others. This is a progressive, inclusive and long overdue act, that sets out some basic rights to guarantee the values we all share.'

'Even though much of the European Convention on Human Rights was drafted by British lawyers, people in the UK can only claim their rights if they have the time and resources to take the long road to Strasbourg. This Act is therefore about bringing British rights home'

Lord chancellor, Lord Irvine, commented: 'The objective of the Human Rights Act is to promote a culture of respect for human rights and responsibilities which over time will permeate the whole of our institutions and society. Government and

the judiciary will carry this objective forward in partnership.'

'The judiciary will be thoroughly prepared for 2 October.£4.5m has been spent to ensure that all judges and magistrates will be fully trained to deal with HRA cases.

I am sure that they will be sensible and realistic when dealing with convention arguments and will not lose sight of the philosophy behind the convention - balance and fairness. These are concepts with which the UK courts are fully familiar.'

NOTES

1. The Human Rights Act was given royal assent on 9 November 1998. Section 22 of the Act requires the home secretary to specify a date for the Act to be implemented by signing a commencement order.

2. The Act will do 3 things with the fundamental rights and freedoms in the European Convention on Human Rights:

(i) It makes it unlawful for a public authority to violate the convention rights, unless an Act of parliament leaves no choice.

(ii) It says that all UK legislation must be given a meaning that fits with the convention rights, if that's possible. If a court says that's not possible, it will be up to parliament to decide what to do. But any Act of parliament declared by British courts incompatible with the convention rights nonetheless remains in force unless and until parliament decides otherwise. So the sovereignty of the British

parliament is safeguarded.

(iii) Cases can be dealt with in a UK court or tribunal. UK citizens will no longer have to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

3. The ECHR contains 17 basic rights covering issues such as -

i. freedom from torture and killing;

ii. liberty;

iii. respect for home and family life;

iv. education;

v. the right to a fair trial;

vi. the right of expression;

vii. the right to vote;

viii. property.

4. The ECHR is a convention of the Council of Europe, of which the UK has been a member since its foundation after the last war. The Council of Europe is an entirely separate institution from the European Union.

5. The Act received an unopposed third reading in the house of commons on 21 October 1998, royal assent on 9 November 1998. Section 19 of the Act, requiring the minister in charge of a Bill to make a statement about its compatibility with the Convention rights, came into force on 24 November 1998. By the Scotland Act 1998 the main

equivalent provisions of the HR Act effectively came into force in Scotland in May 1999.

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