15 August 2008
The government should adopt a Bill of rights and freedoms to safeguard entitlements to social and economic security, MPs and peers have said.
The joint committee on human rights said the 'aspirational' Bill would replace and expand the reach of the current Human Rights Act – which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into British law.
It would include rights to health, housing, education and an adequate standard of living. These would not be enforceable through the courts, but the courts would be able to 'review' the progress made on realising them.
While the committee rejected the idea that the legislation should be used to enforce duties and responsibilities, it would be binding on private organisations performing public functions.
This would 'enable many vulnerable people to rely on their human rights against their service provider, even if they are private'.
Committee chair Andrew Dismore said: 'We want to see a Bill of rights that would set the bar for the universal standards to which everyone is entitled, and fills the gaps in the protection of more vulnerable people such as the elderly, children or people with learning disabilities.
'It would provide a framework both for protecting the liberty of the individual against the intrusion of state power, and for protecting the “little person” against powerful interests.'
Tom Moran, principal policy adviser at the CBI business lobby, questioned whether the proposals fitted with the government's drive for better regulation.
'It may just divert attention from the core aims of improving services and achieving value for money for taxpayers. Vulnerable people need protection, but this isn't the right way to do it,' he said.