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Political Rights and Duties.

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Introduction

Rights and Duties Different political creeds have different approaches to questions of rights and entitlements. Conservatives talk more of duties than rights, and when talking of the latter are likely to place emphasis on freedom from state interference and rights of property. Liberal Democrats often talk of citizens, people who have rights by virtue of their membership of society; they are committed to the defence of civil liberties, and favour action to protect minority groups from various forms of discrimination. Socialists have traditionally spoken of collective rights, of assembly, of industrial action and of welfare, among other things; they are less sympathetic to rights of property. In recent years, however, the Labour Party has placed a new emphasis upon the defence of rights, be they those of racial or other minorities or the civil liberties which they believe have been seriously eroded in the Thatcher years. ...read more.

Middle

Incorporation should mean that people could obtain speedier justice (the current procedure can take five or six years to be completed), and that there would be less European-wide publicity when Britain loses a case in the Court - for many cases which currently reach Strasbourg could be handled back in Britain. The document would be a useful addition to the armoury of weapons which citizens can use when they feel that their rights are threatened: at present there is no clear statement of basic rights to which they can refer. Many see the present basis tor rights as being inadequate, and the Convention would provide such a guarantee. But there are some who are uneasy about Incorporation, for they fear that power would be passed from Parliament to unelected judges whose role in interpreting the Strasbourg provisions would be crucial. Traditionally, it was the British Left which was fearful of judges, seeing them as too comfortably off, of narrow background, too conservative by instinct and training, and unsympathetic to issues of civil liberty and the minority groups who seek to defend themselves. ...read more.

Conclusion

It would have an important educational value, on the one hand helping people to view themselves as citizens rather than subjects, and on the other encouraging those in authority to be careful in their decision-making to pay due regard to individual rights. Opponents of a Bill of rights wonder which rights it would include, and suggest that it would be difficult to reach consensus on what should be in the document; for instance, on the Left there would be a fear that property rights might be stressed more than collective ones. They query what its status might be, and wonder also if it might make for excessive rigidity in our law-making; our present arrangements are flexible and the law can easily changed. Above all, there is the fear of judicial power, for as we have seen judges have often been viewed as unrepresentative and conservative. The existence of a Bill of Rights could place more power in their hands and make them more overtly political, whereas under our present system Parliament is allegedly sovereign. ...read more.

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