On Rights and Responsibilities
Public Law, Forthcoming
14 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2009 Last revised: 8 Nov 2009
Date Written: October 9, 2009
The UK Government’s Green Paper Rights and Responsibilities: Developing our Constitutional Framework, outlines a new proposal for a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, which may replace the Human Rights Act as the main constitutional statement of human rights in the United Kingdom. The Green Paper does not address squarely the role that rights play in protecting liberty. It does not deal with the modern literature on justice, liberty and democracy. The failures are surprising, given the significance of what is being proposed. The experience of modern constitutional law teaches us that we need strong and independent judges and clear public laws, if rights are to be effective. The Green Paper fails to do justice to this long tradition. By making our rights conditional on someone’s (and mainly the government’s) view of our own virtue, the government’s proposal, at least as it stands today, threatens to undermine some of the most central safeguards of liberty.
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