What would a Conservative-DUP deal mean for our rights?

16th June 2017 / UK Civil Liberties and Rights Newscast

By Rachel Robinson Liberty-HumanRights:  After a chaotic week in politics, our acting Policy Director Rachel Robinson gives her take on what a minority Conservative Government – propped up by the DUP – could mean for our rights. 

Last week’s election result confounded expectations.

After failing to secure a Conservative majority, on Friday Theresa May confirmed she would seek to govern with support from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

It now looks like a confidence and supply arrangement – where the DUP supports a minority Conservative Government on crucial votes – is under negotiation.

If it comes off, what would this deal mean for our human rights?


Human rights trash-talk

While the DUP’s manifesto was silent on the future of the Human Rights Act, the Conservatives promised not to touch it until after Brexit.

Their manifesto also confirmed that withdrawal from the Convention on Human Rights – Europe’s response to the Holocaust – was off the agenda for the next Parliament.

But neither party can be trusted. Last week’s Prime Ministerial trash-talk follows years of cheap political shots fired at the laws which protect ordinary people from injustice and abuse.

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And senior DUP MPs backed the last Government in its bid to scrap our Human Rights Act.

But even in collaboration with the DUP, a minority Conservative Government would command the narrowest of working majorities.

If just a handful of MPs rebel, proposed laws won’t pass. Under this new political settlement, power will shift from the Government to our elected representatives across Parliament.

Liberty will work with allies of all political persuasions to make sure any plans to water down our rights fall at the first hurdle.


Draconian and discredited counter-terror policy

In the wake of horrific terror attacks in London and Manchester, Theresa May threatened to resurrect unsafe, unfair and ineffective counter-terror powers which she opposed in Opposition and scrapped as Home Secretary.

The DUP’s manifesto is light on detail, but includes a commitment to update counter-terror laws.

The position of both parties is firmly at odds with the advice of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation Max Hill QC that “we need more resources not more laws to deal with the terrorism threat”.

Liberty stands ready to fight any move to re-introduce draconian and discredited measures like locking people up for 28 days without charge, or dangerous attempts to undermine encryption, which would make us all less secure.


Going backwards on equality

Equality is the key to our human rights values – governments cannot decide to disregard our rights because of our race, gender, sexuality or any other protected characteristic.

The DUP has vetoed same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland on successive occasions despite widespread public support.

While gay marriage, pioneered by a Tory-led Government, is firmly established in British law, Liberty will watch hawkishly for any attempts to water down equality protections in the Brexit process and beyond.

We’ll make sure there is no back-sliding on gay rights and no regression on gender equality on our watch.


Tough on borders

Both the Conservatives and the DUP talk tough on borders.

Liberty will continue to fight for an immigration and asylum system which respects rights and freedoms.

We’ll oppose new and existing policies that drive immigration control into our communities, creating borders on every street and spreading fear, discrimination and division.


The positives

We will always work collaboratively to support and improve policies designed to protect and promote our rights.

Like us, the DUP wants to see an end to the bedroom tax. Liberty challenged the policy in the courts because of its potential to separate families, undermining the right to respect for family life.

The Conservative manifesto included a commitment to create a Mental Health Bill which puts “parity of esteem at the heart of treatment”.

While their legislative agenda is now on shaky footing, Liberty will use every opportunity to make sure laws and policies protect the rights of those facing mental illness.

And we will work with the opposition parties to push forward a widespread consensus on the need for an independent review of the Prevent strategy and an end to the cruelty of indefinite immigration detention.

A week is a long time in politics – and recent twists in the fortunes of our political leaders have created dizzying uncertainty.

But at Liberty our path is clear and our work is as important as ever.

If you want to be part of a movement that holds the Government to account and takes action to put human rights at the heart of politics, join our fight.


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