Campbell: Put environment at heart of constitution

Campbell argues for an environment Bill of Rights as his closes the Lib Dems conference this year.
Campbell argues for an environment Bill of Rights as his closes the Lib Dems conference this year.

Protection for the environment should be enshrined in the British constitution, Menzies Campbell declared today.

Closing the Liberal Democrat conference, Sir Menzies called for an environmental Bill of Rights to guarantee every citizen the right to clean water, pure air and unpolluted land.

The Liberal Democrats have stressed their green initiatives throughout the conference but the Lib Dem leader waited until the closing speech to pull the final organically-reared rabbit out of the hat.

He told delegates in Brighton: "I want a Bill of Rights that puts the protection of the environment at the very heart of Britain's constitution.


"We should guarantee the right of every citizen to clean water, pure air and unpolluted land."

The bill would be modelled on the Human Rights Act and is designed to plug the gaps between existing legislation to provide total protection for the environment.

Briefing journalists this morning, Sir Menzies' chief of staff Ed Davey said the bill would empower citizens to demand protection for the environment through the courts and provide ordinary people with the means to challenge powerful bodies.

The bill would be phrased in broad terms, leaving the Courts free to interpret what counts as an environmental "right".

However, the comparison to the Human Rights Act makes the proposed bill vulnerable to criticism that it hands a vague right to citizens with little idea how it will be implemented.

The Liberal Democrats are aware cynicism of the current Human Rights Act risks undermining confidence in the environmental Bill of Rights.

Sir Menzies launched this year's Lib Dem conference with a promise to defend the Human Rights Act against attacks from the Conservatives and right wing media and the government's complacency.

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