The protection of human rights and civil liberties is fundamental to our society and we will seek to uphold and maintain them. Beyond our own society, we will demand that basic human rights are protected and act as far as possible to encourage other countries to meet acceptable standards. Human rights are universal; our advocacy of them must not be parochial.
Protection of civil liberties
There is a need to take effective action against organised crime and terrorism but measures must seek to ensure that liberties are protected. Emergency legislation should be subject to annual renewal by parliament.
Although there is an obvious need for the police and other agencies to be able to establish a person's identity, the proposed ID card scheme goes far beyond this. The Government’s determination to persist with ID cards, in the face of widespread opposition, informs us that they recognise the potential for the scheme to be used further afield. The Treasury in particular would welcome ID cards to reduce the black economy by linking them to work permits, NIC records and PAYE information. Similarly, the road pricing scheme would appear to be more about collecting personal information and cash than alleviating congestion. We oppose the ID card scheme and will campaign for clear safeguards on the access to and use of personal data.
Governments clearly need to balance individual rights with the need to protect the public in general and protect particular groups (e.g., ethnic minorities) against discrimination. There should always be a strong presumption that individual rights will be respected.
Combating racism and discrimination
We support the full legal protection of individuals from racial harassment and discrimination. We consider racial motivation in crimes to be an ‘aggravating factor’ that is deservedly taken into account in sentencing, though we believe that guidelines on this issue can be improved and the police response made more effective. We believe that, in the long term, better education and employment opportunities will be the most effective means to combat racism and discrimination.
We uphold the rights of individuals and promote equal treatment of people regardless of their gender, racial or ethnic origin, age, disability, religion or sexual orientation. We would seek to have a simplified anti-discrimination framework that could resolve disputes quickly and provide simple but effective remedies. To this end we propose a review of existing legislation, and consultation with appropriate groups, with the aim of introducing a new and comprehensive bill on discrimination that meets these criteria.
Mediation before litigation
The compensation culture, abuse of legal aid and increased litigation have created expensive gridlock in our legal system. For most cases such as commercial and matrimonial disputes we propose mediation as a simple, cost-effective and fast alternative to protracted court proceedings. We believe that levels of compensation should also be capped to bring about prompt resolutions and control costs.
Promotion of human rights
We believe that the promotion of human rights around the world should be a key goal. We reject the idea that the abuse of human rights elsewhere is none of our business and instead would seek to ensure that our influence in international organisations and through bilateral relationships is geared towards support for basic human rights.