Tuesday, 24 March 2009 12:00 AM
Unlock Democracy today welcomed the publication of the Government's discussion paper on the need for a Bill of Rights in the UK.
Commenting on the publication of Rights and Responsibilities: developing our constitutional framework Director of Unlock Democracy, Peter Facey said
"Unlock Democracy supports a Bill of Rights for the UK that builds on the Human Rights Act and that sets out the relationship between the citizen and the state. We very much welcome the publication of this discussion document and in particular the Government's commitment to involve all parts of the country and society in the debate.
"The Government has not yet outlined what the process will be for this public engagement exercise but they have rightly indicated that it will need to be very wide ranging. It is essential that the Government is proactive in encouraging people to participate, thatthere are opportunities for genuine deliberation and that the proposal for a Bill of Rights can be rejected. We also have to recognise that the Government alone cannot deliver meaningful engagement. It is up to all of us, civic society organisations and individuals to take part in the debate, make our voices heard and take ownership of our democracy.
"While we welcome the discussion about a Bill of Rights we are concerned about incorporating rights and responsibilities in the same document. Our fundamental human rights are rooted in our shared humanity and are not conditional. We need a Bill of Rights precisely because our rights and freedoms should not be treated either as rewards handed out by the Government for good behaviour, or as privileges that can be withheld like a child's pocket money. If there is a need for a discussion about the obligations and duties we owe each other as citizens, this should be a separate process form the Bill of Rights.
"For a Bill of Rights to be a genuine guarantor of our rights, it must ultimately be entrenched and treated differently from other pieces of legislation. If it is not then it will be at risk every time there is a crisis. At the very least, the House of Commons should not be able to bypass the House of Lords through use of the Parliament Act when seeking to amend our fundamental rights and freedoms."
Note to editors -
Unlock Democracy is the UK's leading campaign for democracy, rights and freedoms.
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