Charlie Elphicke is the Member of Parliament for Dover and Deal. Follow Charlie on Twitter.
The reform of human rights laws should be a key pledge of a future Conservative Government. We should sweep away Labour's Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.
A key element of a British Bill of Rights would be to ensure our freedoms are under the control of the UK Supreme Court and not European judges in Strasbourg. It's wrong for judges in Strasbourg to decide these things. British judges in British Courts should have the final say in line with the laws passed by Parliament. Moreover this is what the British people want, with three out of four people citing the Human Rights Act as a charter for crooks and cheats in a recent You Gov poll.
The fact that the British people feel so strongly is not surprising when you look at what the current European human rights set up does – many feel it creates more problems than it sets out to correct.
All too often under the current human rights laws, it is villains and terrorists who appear to have the upper hand. Remember all that trouble about throwing out Abu Qatada? And the case of Aso Mohammed Ibrahim who knocked down and killed 12-year-old Amy Houston back in 2003, and yet was allowed to remain in the UK as immigration judges ruled that sending him home would breach his right to a ‘private and family life’? We should be able to secure our borders and deport people who commit crimes without delay. Nor should it be so difficult to uphold the principle that criminals should lose certain social rights – including the right to vote in elections.
There is a real sense among a lot of people who come to see me at my surgeries that our citizens do not have the protection under our laws that they should have. If a Briton commits a crime in Britain, that person should be tried before the British Courts under our laws. This is why many of the recent extradition cases have caused so much public concern.
Many worry that our long held freedoms have not been sufficiently protected in recent times; fundamental principles like freedom of speech and freedom of religion too often lie under siege.
At the heart of any society must lie a basic social contract, a contract where rights are matched by responsibilities. You don't hear much about that when human rights are discussed. It always seems to be "I know my rights" but should we not instead hear more about knowing your responsibilities? Such a social contract should lie at the heart of a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.
It is because we need to protect our ancient customs, liberties and freedoms that yesterday I tabled a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities to replace the Human Rights Act. This will be debated in due course. We have to be able to protect the freedoms we cherish, safeguard our borders and deal effectively with criminals and terrorists. I believe we – the UK – should have the final say on our rights and the social contract that lies at the heart of our society, not Europe or anywhere else. We can and should stand on our own two feet as a country.