On the 24th June 2013, three Members of the UK Parliament, with support from a small number of others, introduced forty Private Members' Bills on a wide range of issues. One of these Bills, introduced by Philip Hollobone, Peter Bone, and Christopher Chope, was scheduled to receive its Second Reading on 6th September in the House of Commons.
The Face Coverings (Prohibition) Bill would, if enacted, make it a criminal offence for a person to wear 'any garment or other object intended by the wearer as its primary purpose to obscure the face in a public place'. The Bill has been characterised as the 'Ban the Burqa Bill' for its implicit ambition to prohibit certain forms of religious dress in public.
The Bill failed to get any Parliamentary time on 6th September, when MPs objected to its Second Reading. It will, however, get another opportunity on 28th February 2014.
Before that, however, another Hollobone, Bone, and Chope sponsored Bill is scheduled to receive its Second Reading on 18th October. Although the Withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights and Removal of Alleged Terrorists Bill hasn't been printed, the short title indicates its general ambitions.
The range of subjects covered by the Hollobone, Bone, and Chope Bills - which include reintroducing capital punishment, introducing special criminal sanctions for illegal immigrants, and imposing time limits on asylum applications - raise the central question of whether the UK needs its Human Rights Act or its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Many of the Bills would fail to make Parliamentary progress, even if there was enough support for them among Parliamentarians, because they would likely fail to get a Statement of Compatibility with the Human Rights Act. Even if they did, challenges in the UK courts would ensue and litigation in the European Court of Human Rights would certainly follow.
Although Hollobone, Bone, and Chope's Bills might be regarded as the work of 'cranks' - they were characterised as constituting an 'alternative Queen's speech' at the time they were presented - Bone describes them as 'an attempt to show that it is only the Conservatives who are on the common ground of British politics and represent the views of the electorate'.
One aspect of that 'common ground' that Hollobone, Bone and Chope hope to promote relates to same-sex marriage. Their Same Sex Marriage (Referendum) Bill, somewhat redundant since the enactment of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, presumes that there is wide support against same-sex marriage in the UK and aims to give voice to it.
Reading the list of subjects covered, it is important to remember that many of the political ambitions they give expression to are unlikely to succeed because of the UK's commitment to the ECHR. And that might be one good reason why the UK needs the ECHR.
Here is the full list of the Bills:
- Face Coverings (Prohibition) Bill
- National Service Bill
- European Communities Act 1972 (Repeal) Bill
- Young Offenders (Parental Responsibility) Bill
- Foreign National Offenders (Exclusion from the United Kingdom) Bill
- Asylum Seekers (Return to Nearest Safe Country) Bill
- Prisoners (Completion of Custodial Sentences) Bill
- Fishing Grounds and Territorial Waters (Repatriation) Bill
- School Governing Bodies (Adverse Weather Conditions) Bill
- Capital Punishment Bill
- Government Departments (Amalgamation of Scotland Office, Wales Office and Northern Ireland Office) Bill
- Residential Roads (Adoption by Local Highways Authorities) Bill
- Equality and Diversity (Reform) Bill
- Sentencing Escalator Bill
- Leasehold Reform (Amendment) Bill
- BBC Licence Fee (Civil Debt) Bill
- Smoking (Private Members’ Clubs) Bill
- Margaret Thatcher Day Bill
- Department of Energy and Climate Change (Abolition) Bill
- Married Couples (Tax Allowance) Bill
- Foreign Aid Ring-Fencing (Abolition) Bill
- Charitable Status for Religious Institutions Bill
- Same Sex Marriage (Referendum) Bill
- Wind Farm Subsidies (Abolition) Bill
- Withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights and Removal of Alleged Terrorists Bill
- Romanian and Bulgarian Accession (Labour Restriction) Bill
- BBC Privatisation Bill
- Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Abolition) Bill
- Prime Minister (Replacement) Bill
- United Kingdom (Withdrawal from the European Union) Bill
- Asylum (Time Limit) Bill
- Benefit Entitlement (Restriction) Bill
- Illegal Immigrants (Criminal Sanctions) Bill
- Sexual Impropriety in Employment Bill
- Collection of Nationality Data Bill
- Foreign Nationals (Access to Public Services) Bill
- House of Lords (Maximum Membership) Bill
- Control of Offshore Wind Turbines Bill
- Employment Opportunities Bill
- EU Membership (Audit of Costs and Benefits) Bill