» Thursday, May 11, 2006

Human Rights

Asked about Dr. Reid’s recent statement about the Afghan hijackers, and did it reflect anything that was said in Cabinet and was there going to be anything done about it, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that what we could do about it was appeal, as we had done. That was why, as people would expect, the PMOS could not comment further on what Dr. Reid had said about the particular case. In general terms, however, the PMOS pointed journalists back to what the Prime Minister had said at the press conference, which was that if someone had committed a serious offence as a foreigner, then the belief that the public would have was that they should not be able to stay in Britain. In this particular case, since we were going to appeal, the PMOS could not comment any further.

Asked if the Prime Minister had any intention of introducing fresh legislation, as he had mentioned doing so before, the PMOS replied that we kept pushing the law forward to align it more closely with the concerns of the public, and we did that on a whole range of topics. The PMOS said that from time to time, that was tested in the courts. If it was tested in the courts, then we would take measures, such as control orders, to address that issue. In terms of the intention, and the determination to deliver on that intention, that was not in doubt.

Asked what would the Prime Minister say to those critics who would say that this "shambles" was all the Prime Minister’s fault for passing the Human Rights Act which had created all the trouble, the PMOS referred the journalist to an analysis by Joshua Rozenberg which referred to the European Convention on human rights, which was in practice long before the Human Rights Act. The PMOS said that it was a gross oversimplification to put this all under the Human Rights Act. In many ways, the issues which had to be addressed went beyond that to the European Convention.

Asked if the Prime Minister had concerns about the way the Human Rights Act was being implemented, because time after time, criminals were being let out and not deported because of the Human Rights Act, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister in the past had addressed what he believed was a misinterpretation of the Human Rights Act if it conflicted with the rights of the public in general. The Prime Minister had pointed out that in other countries in Europe, they had no problems in aligning the two issues, even though they too were signatories to the Human Rights Act. As the Prime Minister had said earlier this week, there was an issue about how we aligned the issues of the human rights of the public with the human rights of the individual. That was an issue, as the Prime Minister had said, we were prepared to test, and test again, if necessary.

Asked about the Prime Minister’s words last night about the abuse of common sense, and that he thought that it was the judges that were misinterpreting human rights, the PMOS said that given that we now into an appeal on this particular case, he had to be careful about what he said.

Put that the PMOS had said that there was a misinterpretation about the Human Rights Act, the PMOS replied that he was not going to get drawn into those particular circumstances, but it was fair to draw people’s attention to the Prime Minister’s comments in general.

Asked if the Prime Minister thought that the law was "alright", the PMOS said that we would continue to look at how it was operating. The Prime Minister had pointed out that in other countries, there were not these problems.

Asked if this was another case of Britain "gold-plating" EU legislation, the PMOS replied that however it was described, it was a fact that other signatories to the Human Rights Act did not have these problems, and therefore, there was an issue about why we did.

Asked if the basic problem was that it was based on the Human Rights bill from 1953, and not the Human Rights Act, the PMOS replied that again, there were signatories to that as well, who dealt with these problems in a rational way. Again, there was an issue about interpretation.

Put that there was also the UN, where we dealt with Iran and other problems, all of which were going to be talked about in a speech by the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister said that the intention was still to make the speech in America in the not too distant future. We had made it clear for a variety of means that the speech fell more naturally after the formation of the Iraqi Government, and that was getting to the final stages.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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