May 12, 2007
A Written Constitution?
So El Gordo is thinking of creating a written constitution for the UK. Hmmm:
In an attempt to draw a line under damaging perceptions over sleaze and spin in the Blair era, the chancellor will seek consensus for the historic move to enshrine certain values and rights.
While the idea of nailing down these things, in a manner that cannot (easily) be over-ridden by subsequent Parliaments is a good one, it does really rather depends upon which rights and values are incorporated.
Just as an example, the right to life will no doubt make an appearance, but can this be (as it was in the EU one) shoe-horned in with the right to an abortion?
What will be said about jury trials? Extradition? The right to confront one's accusers? All of these things which we have had via common and statute law, and which have been chipped away at under both EU law and the Extradition Act....well, how strong will be these protections?
Further, are we going to enshrine negative rights or positive rights? Values? Like the EU one, essentially the social democratic ones? Or liberal ones?
If, for example, we took the US Constitution as a guide (not a bad one after all, one of the longest lasting ones around) along with the Bill of Rights then there are some recent actions which would not have happened: like the Act of Attainder against Bowland Dairies.
There's also an interesting thought: given that EU law takes precendence over UK law, just what use is such a constitution? I think it is only Germany which has said that, actually, no, whatever the EU might think, the German Constitution is the primary law in that country and where there is a conflict, the EU law loses. Would we do the same?
But by far the most important thing will be which way the whole thing is constructed. Will it be a list of things that we the people may do, with everything else reserved to the Government (or State), or will it be what a truly liberal constitution would be, here are the powers that we the people give to the State on our behalf, and everything else remains with us?
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That you even have to ask this question shows you have not been paying attention to the Labor shell game these past ten years.
When have they ever given us an extra right, rather than taking one away?
And they have teken so many! Bowland Daries was a frightful abuse of powers, directly damning someone by name in a specific law, in spite of court rulings that there was nothing wrong. But it sets a precident.
The right to self-defence has pretty much been eroded to nothing, with people being threatened with arrest for carrying cricket balls to cricket matches, and having legally held knives taken away by threat of force (a crime if anyone else did it) as welll as bans on even non-lethal air weapon sales, tighter laws on thousands of formerly everyday items, and the threat of arrest for even token levels of not toeing the line.
Then there is the subversion of the courts, with mandatory minimum sentences, the removal of the right to trial by jury, the removal of Habeas Corpus, the removal of the right to silence, and the removal of Meas Rea in huge numbers of criminal cases. Further, the "agreements" between the courts, police and CPS that certain crimes should always be prosecuted (anything involving a child) even when all evidence points to the opposite of the annoying^H^H^H^H^onymous phone call.
There is plenty more, like the De Menezes and Kelly murders & cover-ups, but they are failings and abuses of the law, rather than actual abuses by changing the law.
So in answer, no, if we get a constitution, it will be like the VCR and the FOI acts - more about increased government power for the government, but phrased such that it looks like it should be giving us our rights back.
Besides, we already have a bill of rights - what do you think the USA based theirs on? - and yes, we have the right to bare arms.
(Though probably only if we put on suntan cream to a level passed by inspectors, or else risk a £60 fine...)
Posted by: NKT | May 12, 2007 2:43:28 PM
"there are some recent actions which would not have happened: like the Act of Attainder against Bowland Dairies."
It's pretty much illegal under the Human Rights Act too, and merely (!) requires the victims to take the case to a court.
Posted by: Kay Tie | May 12, 2007 6:36:40 PM
Kaytie, you're wrong. No Act of Parliament is illegal.
Posted by: Marcin Tustin | May 12, 2007 9:07:30 PM
I'm not sure this is right. Firstly Bowland was closed using a statutory instrument rather than an act of parliament. Secondly the HRA, as a Constitutional Act, should take priority (no implied repeal).
Posted by: Bishop Hill | May 13, 2007 8:36:39 AM