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Don Jameson

Interesting idea, but perhaps the new Minister should work from DFID - rather than let the Carlton-Browns of the FCO subvert the entire process, as they usually do.


Human Rights in practice is anathema to the rule of law and democracy. Laws are rules which draw distinctions between sets of circumstances, and create a highly predictable environment, reducing risk for decision takers, and protecting society by giving it clear lines of what is right and wrong.

Human Rights looks at the effects on individuals, and the beneficial effects for society of the definition of laws are eroded, increasing hazards, demotivating responsibility takers and reducing wealth creation.

Human Rights Laws give individuals protection against rule by the majority, which undermines democracy, based on subjective judgements. Judges are being recruited now based on their political correctness, which is shocking the judiciary, and threatening our legal system.

Unfortunately I don't see the one dimensional force for good that Sam Burke sees in Human Rights. This could be why David Cameron is continually calling for the repeal and replacement of the Human Rights Act. Human Rights Laws are destroying the stability and strength of our society. They need to be eliminated, and the Political Correctness which goes hand in hand with them challenged and dealt with.

In summation they are an insidious attack on our culture, our laws and our way of life and they purport to grant power to an elite group of appointed officials who believe they know what is right and wrong, regardless of the views of the majority or of our elected representatives.


I very much agree with the principle of this and agree with Don's suggestion that it should be based within the DFID.

It would help to differentiate between real human rights such as freedom from slavery, torture and arbitrary detention and the abuses of human rights legislation that we currently see.


The UK should promote the rule of law, democracy and free markets in its foreign policies as core beliefs. We are so far from these in so many countries that diverting onto "human rights", or what a group of politicians in the UK deem to be "human rights" at the time, seems irrelevant. First things first!

Peter Littleton

I agree with william that Humans Rights in principle do not correspond with our tradition of the rule of law, and specifically the negative constraining of the individual's right; as in the citizen may do anything he wishes except... .In many ways I feel the European Convention adds little to our legal rights. I don't really believe that I need or benefit from the Council of Europe granting me my right to life. I think the Convention arose, after European experiences of despotic government, when Europeans lost their trust in their democratic institutions - and indeed themselves for electing some of the despicable politicians in question.

This rationale has never sat comfortably in Britian, where we have never been ruled by, or occupied by such a regime.

That is not to say that there should be no limit on what government can do, in the form of some Convention or Constitution. In his thread, william said "Human Rights Laws give individuals protection against rule by the majority, which undermines democracy"

This is an argument for tyranny of the majority, where it is okay to undermine individual rights, as long as the democratic majority approve.

I don't like this idea, but I do think that the limits on government should be negative, rather than the rights of the people being positive. So that, just as I am not permitted to do certain things, neither is the government. In this way, we can clearly prevent the most grotesque violations of rights by government, without getting bogged down in a culture of political correctness, or curtailing the state's ability to fight internal threats such as terror.

With regards a Minister for HRs, I am slightly uneasy with the idea that we should be uniformly promoting HRs in the world. Firstly, it is impossible to do so evenly. Whilst we invade the Balkans in order to protect individual rights, we openly trade and deal with China; knowing there is little we can do in that country.This creates a double standard, which is the cause of so much bad feeling against the west.

Secondly, Human Rights as defined by the convention can be seen as a westernised standard. I think we must be careful about importing this as a world standard, which could be construed as a new imperialism.

Tam Large

Sorry Sam, you have it the wrong way round. The "Human Rights" industry has done more to damage basic human freedoms and welfare than many a nasty tyrant. It has instilled a "someone else is responsible" mentality, and a blame culture which is destroying the innocent free action of normal people, while helping the criminals and terrorists to laugh in our faces as we release them, or even reward them, for their actions. Plane hi-jackers get asylum; burglars criminalise the people they burgled; terrorists live and are supported in this country safe from justice for their crimes elsewhere.. the list goes on.

We need to abolish the Human Rights Act, and attack the "rights" movement; replacing it with a system and ethos of "Human Responsibilities", which will far better instill a culture of compassion and caring in our society. Making citizens responsible for their actions, and responsible for contributing and caring. As JFK said so wisely: "think not what your country can do for you; but what you can do for your country".


Bad idea in my view. We should be cutting government not enlarging it by creating a new ministry.


Where do these "Human Rights" come from? Are they not simply a modern manifestation of the radical Whig theory of "natural rights" which the Tories attacked for being abstract and not based on historical precedent? I believe strongly in the defence of our traditional freedoms (the so-called rights and liberties of Englishmen beloved of Tories and conservative Whigs) but the idea of human rights is, to quote Jeremy Benthtam, nonsense on stilts. And to quote him again:

“Right...is the child of law: from real laws come real rights; but from imaginary laws, from laws of nature, fancied and invented by poets, rhetoricians, and dealers in moral and intellectual poisons, come imaginary rights, a bastard brood of monsters.”


By the way, do we get to see the percantages of the votes in favour and against these proposals?


This one gets a "no" from me for a number of reasons:

1. Whilst there is a place for promoting Human Rights in Foreign Policy it should not be set above other objectives but integrated into our overall foreign policy.

2. It's rather unConservative to put this at the centre - a bit more promotion of British interests and a bit less lecturing the world from a position of assumed moral superiority would not come amiss in either British or, particularly, US foreign policy. With our recent regretable closeness to Bush, we also have low credibility as a country in influencing such matters at the moment.

3. Generally the idea that one solves anything by creating a special Minister should be treated with suspicion. Ministers need to follow the desired structure of Government departments, not the other way around. The cost para of the proposal also implies this would be an extra paid Minister - we need fewer, not more.

4. It would be more useful to have a debate on what should be the legitmate aims and objectives of British foreign (and defence) policy than going for this "eye-catching initiative".

5. I am more concerned about the erosion of rights at home, which after all we have a better chance of doing something about, than abroad.


Sam's proposal is a good one. Sadly, the Conservative Party has a long record of indifference to human rights which is reflected in many of the comments on this site that whinge on about Europe and political correctness.


"Sadly, the Conservative Party has a long record of indifference to human rights which is reflected in many of the comments on this site that whinge on about Europe and political correctness."

Then perhaps you would like to address those points instead of hurling around accusations of whingeing?

Mike Christie

I would agree with earlier posters that we need less moral posturing in our foreign policy.We have no right to police the world, and as Iraq shows us, even removing the most vile of dictators can still leave us looking like the bad guys.

Bad things happen in the world, it would be wonderful if we could fix them all, but the first duty of the government is national security, therefore the first responsibility of foreign policy is the protection of our own interests. It is harsh, but that's life.

It might be nice for politicians to get on their moral soapbox and start talking about spreading democracy and the like, but it is our armed forces who pay the price. Can we really ask our armed forces to lay down their lives when there is no threat to our interests, simply to soothe the consciences of the chattering classes. We can never hope to fix all the evils of the world. This doesn't mean we shouldn't take a stand when it counts or stand by our allies, but it does mean we should think long and hard before we commit our party to following the path of supposed moral rightness followed by Blair.

Britain has long had a reputation for defending liberty, but that does not mean we have to take up the problems of the world.

I would agree with Londoner, we should look to our own rights and liberties too.

We have a government that has on the one hand brought 'Human Rights' into legislation, but on the other hand has done more to undermine democracy and liberty in this country than any government in living memory.

We need less ridiculous laws giving everyone arbitary rights without responsibilites and more defence of the basic principles of free speech, due process and democratic representation.

The current government that makes such a play on 'human rights' has also legislated to outlaw peaceful demonstrations near Parliament, had peace protesters arrested for reading out a list of names, banned hunting, made our electoral system wide open to fraud, wants to implement ID cards, detention without trial, ASBOs (which can theoretically see someone imprisoned for doing something that isn't illegal based purely on hearsay) and all sorts of other illiberal measures.

There has to be an emphasis of the fundamental 'ancient liberties' of this country AND a robust upholding of the law, including defending the positions that those who do not respect the rights of others lose some of their own rights.

Jon Gale

If you create a Minister for Human Rights, after they've run out of real issues (about week 2), and made a few speeches about places like Zimbabwe (which they cant affect), they'll start looking for things to do and 'initiatives' to justify their salary. It'll be worse than the Human Rights Act, doubly so when Labour is in power.


I support Sam's policy idea.

A minister responsible for Human Rights could allow us to dictate the direction of policy. A new Human Rights act, drawn up and directed by a new minister would have practical and electorate advantages. I don't subscribe to the belief that if Government gets its nose out, the nation would be a better place. Sometimes intervention is necessary. A human rights minister, responsible for our own national Human Rights Act is a solid and very interesting proposal.....

An accountable minister vs the forces of 'good' in international and european institutions.

Well done Sam!


>>>Sadly, the Conservative Party has a long record of indifference to human rights which is reflected in many of the comments on this site that whinge on about Europe and political correctness.<<<

What utter tripe. The Conservative Party's very long record on confronting slavery, fascism, Nazism and Communism speaks for itself.

On the other hand, as they say in the Dragon's Den, I'm out. £500k - try twenty times that for a skeleton staff, admin, travel, boondoggles, etc.

Now, a Minister for Human Responsibilities...


In response to Richard, I have no intention of indulging in yet another debate about Europe or political correctness which is not the subject of this proposal. In case he hadn't noticed, obsessing about such issues has given the Tory Party a reputation for weirdness and irrelevance.

Denis Cooper

Nope. I believe in

a) "civilised behaviour" - which includes refraining from barbaric or unnecessarily brutal conduct against any other human beings anywhere in the world, and if necessary and feasible protecting them from such barbarism and brutality

b) "civil rights" - the special rights of the citizen within his own country.

Not "human rights", which were specifically invented to undermine "civil rights", help destroy the nation states and create a world government/dictatorship.

Niall Gooch

I think this is a marvellous idea. Particularly apt on a day when we are selling 72 Eurofighters to the Saudis; an excellent illustration of the conflict of interests between trade promotion and human rights promotion!

Certain posters here seem to have misunderstood Mr Burke's position. Many people of a conservative bent now associate the idea of "human rights" entirely, or predominantly, with tabloid scare stories about prisoners being given pornography in their cells, or guilty criminals getting off on technicalities, or children defying their teachers. This is not what Mr Burke is interested in. We are talking here about upholding freedom of religion in China or supporting prisoners of conscience in Cuba.

I think it is important to make crystal clear that what this ministry would be promoting is a classical conception of human rights, rooted not in 60s style radical autonomy, but in an older and more venerable tradition of defending human dignity and foundational freedoms – the right to life, the rule of law, freedom of conscience and freedom of worship, association and speech – within a constitutional framework of "ordered liberty" . These are very much the fruits of the best in the Judeo-Christian tradition, refined and strengthened by the best of Enlightenment thinking.

William Norton

Bit Harold Wilson isn't it?

Yet Another Anon

I can't see the point really, what is a human right, surely this is the purpose of the law generally - all ministers should have a sense of what is right and wrong and apply them to policy making, I see no point in Charters\Conventions of Human Rights or of ministers for them.


Unless we can enforce human rights we cannot uphold them. A minister wringing his hands and saying he disapproves of another government's record is a waste of time.


Actually, the modern "human rights" industry was to all intents and purposes started by Daniel Patrick Moynihan when he was US Ambassador to the UN as a stick to beat the oppressive Communists with, so there is precedent for this idea from the defence of Anglo-American concepts of liberty.

However, the term has been perverted so that it now means something else and this office would be co-opted very quickly to that cause.

There's a kernel of a good idea in here, but it needs to be reworked somehow.

Jack Bauer

My first reaction is to think, no, instead let's fire -- at random -- at least half the civil service.

So no, I don't think having another "ministry" has anything to do with "conservatism."

But oh, if one must absolutely, totally employ another 300 government paid free-loaders; at least let's start with a "Human RESPONSIBILITIES Ministry"... then work our way up to so-called "rights."

Peter Littleton

I think it is important to make crystal clear that what this ministry would be promoting is a classical conception of human rights, rooted not in 60s style radical autonomy, but in an older and more venerable tradition of defending human dignity and foundational freedoms – the right to life, the rule of law, freedom of conscience and freedom of worship, association and speech – within a constitutional framework of "ordered liberty" . These are very much the fruits of the best in the Judeo-Christian tradition, refined and strengthened by the best of Enlightenment thinking."

How do you think it would go down in the Arab world, when we start telling them they have to adopt the fruits of the Judeo-Christian tradition, Niall?

Whilst I agree entirely with these values, and believe that they are the best way to organise our society, I'm not sure the British government has the moral right to then import these everywhere. If you ask the British people what is a 'human right' you will get a variety of responses, probably cutting across community lines. Because they are so uncertain, I don't think the British government should the taxpayers money on actively defending them.

That leaves a ministerial role of making constructive criticism of other regime - a role which can be equally well filled by organisations such as Amnesty International.

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