Conservative Debates - Liberty under the Law

Oliver Letwin, John Marenbon & Martin Howe
October 2002

Freedom under the law has been the foundation stone of British liberty. But, as the authors of Liberty under the Law explain, that foundation is threatened.
First, Oliver Letwin, who at time of publication was the Shadow Home Secretary, explains that an ever more powerful state can encroach on basic freedoms. There has been a paradigm shift from liberty to positive rights which are often left to judges' discretion to interpret. Dr Letwin proposes ways to counterattack, including a freedom clause in each new law and a stronger house of lords.
The position is more sinister, says John Marenbon, a Cambridge Philosopher. Much of the new human rights law removes, rather than upholds, liberties. Dr Marenbon argues that the modish trends which go against the true tradition of liberty have no place in conservative thinking.
At the heart of this dilemma, explains Martin Howe QC, lies a conflict between the British system where the citizen is free to act unless clearly prohibited by law and the continental tradition of rights based - often discretionary - law.


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