By Martin Banks - 23rd April 2012
Let’s get the balance right
David Campbell Bannerman
A row has broken out between two senior British MEPs, with one accusing the other of a "totally unbalanced approach to human rights".
It follows parliament's adoption last week of a key report by S&D deputy Richard Howitt on human rights.
The report criticised the UK's stance on the European court of human rights (ECHR) and argued for more powers for the EU over human rights.
On the UK stance, Howitt said, "This is not simply a case of foot-dragging but of David Cameron and William Hague deliberately blocking the EU from being made subject to the same strictures on human rights which already apply to Britain and the other member states. It is double standards of the worst kind."
However, Conservative MEP David Campbell Bannerman criticised Howitt's insistence on adding a paragraph condemning UK for what he described as an "obstructionist attitude" in negotiations over EU accession to the European convention on human rights.
MEPs voted his amendment down.
Campbell Bannerman said, "Human rights is about balance, and Howitt did not show much balance when he supported the rights of illegal travellers on illegal pitches at Dale Farm in the UK whilst ignoring the rights of the local people that were so badly effected by it.
"That shows contempt for the rule of law.
"Let's get the balance right, human rights are good but if they are out of balance it weakens the case for them."
He added, "It shows how out-of-touch Howitt is on human rights, when most people in the region think the opposite to him, and believe that the 'human rights industry' is completely out of control.
"While I was seeking the travellers' removal because of the immense problems they'd been causing the local population for over a decade, Howitt was objecting to their removal, calling the council's actions 'A waste of money.'
"He even tried to get the EU and the United Nations to step in, to prevent the evictions. Rather than standing up for the human rights of those that had elected him, and the rule of law, he stood up for those causing them problems."
Howitt's criticism of the UK follows prime minister David Cameron's blocking of the EU's accession to the ECHR.
Campbell Bannerman said, "I am delighted that Cameron had blocked EU accession to the ECHR. This is the right, Conservative, thing to do, as it would have massively expanded the reach of foreign judges into the British judicial system.
"It would also have set a very dangerous precedent - as the EU will next be supplanting the UK as a member of the UN permanent security council and IMF board of governors, as a member in its own right. The Lisbon treaty already means that the EU can bind the UK into international agreements without our national buy-in.
"If Howitt has his way, and the UK allows the accession, it may well be that the EU gets the final say next time we need to evict travellers from illegal sites, or permission to deport alleged terrorists out of the country.
"It is clear that Howitt's words and actions can leave no one in doubt about who has local people's interests at heart - the Conservatives - and who doesn't - Labour."