Blog - 5th August 2022

Aug 5th 2022, 19:47

Blog - 5th August 2022

In this blog I consider the European Convention on Human Rights and the British government’s Bill of Rights; the need for towns that are dependent on tourism to have museums and / or heritage centres; and webinars.

Parliament is considering a Bill of Rights that would replace the Human Rights Act and reduce Britain’s commitment to the European Convention onHuman Rights. I am afraid that, if it is passed it would undermine human rights in Britain and undermine Britain’s standing in the world. Worse still, Liz Truss has said that if she becomes Prime Minister she may go further and withdraw Britain from the European Convention of Human Rights altogether.

The European Convention on Human Rights is sometimes presented as a threat to British sovereignty but this is not true. The Convention was drafted after the Second World War as a way of protecting human rights in Europe and preventing communist subversion or a resurgence of fascism. It came into force in 1953 when Churchill was Prime Minister and has been supported by every British government since – until the present one. It is supported by every government in Europe with the exceptions of Russia and Belarus.

Winston Churchill, one of the architects of the European Convention on Human Rights

The convention covers: Right to life; Freedom from torture & inhuman or degrading treatment; Freedom from slavery & forced labour; Right to liberty & security; Right to a fair trial; No punishment without law; Respect for your private & family life, home & correspondence; Freedom of thought, belief & religion; Freedom of expression; Freedom of assembly & association; Right to marry & start a family; Protection from discrimination in respect of these rights & freedoms; Right to peaceful enjoyment of your property; Right to education; Right to participate in free elections; & abolition of the death penalty. Britain signed the convention in 1953 and it is enshrined in law in the Human Rights Act 1998. I would have thought that anyone with a sound mind would want to support these principles.

People who believe their human rights are being denied by a national government can appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. This court is not part of the European Union. An international court is needed because the convention is there to protect citizens when national institutions fail them.

The purpose of the Bill of Rights that is now before Parliament is to is to allow political interference in the courts and to make significant changes including:

  • A harder test to claim the right to family life to avoid deportation.
  • Limits on cases where public bodies have a positive obligation to protect individuals’ rights (this would have prevented the relatives of the Hillsborough victims from pursuing justice).
  • Rules instructing courts to consider a claimant’s past record before awarding them damages for human rights breaches.
  • A new ‘permission stage’ requiring claimants to show they have ‘suffered a significant disadvantage’ to bring a case (meaning that some level of human rights abuse would be legal).

The president of the Law Society says that the bill would ‘create an acceptable class of human rights abuses in the United Kingdom’. In undermining the European Convention on Human Rights, it would also reduce its effectiveness in protecting human rights in other European countries; and generally undermine the rule of law internationally. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to undermine or withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights unless they were a fascist or a communist who wished to see human rights undermined not only in Britain, but also across the continent – yet the British government is doing just that!

To view or download a copy of the European Convention on Human Rights, please click here.

I will follow the progress of the Bill with considerable concern and would advise readers of this blog to do likewise.

The coronavirus pandemic and the lockdowns have had a damaging effect on the economy of areas that are dependent on tourism, including the town of Kirkby Stephen where I live. As we emerge from the pandemic there is clearly a need to consider how these places should position themselves in the tourism market to ensure that they achieve their full potential.

I think Kirkby Stephen should have a museum and heritage centre that would showcase the fascinating history of Kirkby Stephen and the Upper Eden area. This wouldn’t just be something that would be nice for local people to have, but would be an important part of the tourist offer and therefore of the local economy.

The Upper Eden has been settled since prehistoric times. The Romans built a fort at Brough and buried a cavalry helmet at Crosby Garrett. The Vikings founded Kirkby Stephen and carved the Loki Stone. In the middle ages the Upper Eden was filled with castles and pele towers, Kirkby Stephen got a market charter, Andrew Harclay won the Battle of Boroughbridge and the Musgraves were buried in Kirkby Stephen church. In the seventeenth century Kirkby Stephen sided with Parliament against the King and Lady Ann Clifford restored the Clifford estates. In the nineteenth century the industrial revolution brought the mills and the railway to Kirkby Stephen. And these are only a few of the highlights!

Kirkby Stephen Parish Church

One of the historic gems of Kirkby Stephen is the medieval church. To view or download a fact sheet on it, please click here.

The economy of the Upper Eden is dependent on tourism with people attracted by the scenery and the outdoor activities as well as the history. But, as this is Cumbria, we get a lot of rain – and what is there to be done in the rain? This is why it is important for tourist towns to have ‘wet weather’ attractions that can act as a magnet when the weather turns wet.

When I worked for Copeland Council in the 1990s, we had the challenge of transforming post-industrial Whitehaven into a tourist town and central to this was the creation of the Beacon Heritage Centre. A museum or heritage centre really can act as a catalyst for economic activity. Other successful tourist centres in Cumbria already have museums or heritage centres. Carlisle has Tullie House. Kendal, Penrith and Keswick all have museums.

Kirkby Stephen does, of course, have the excellent Stainmore Railway Centre and the brilliant display of early medieval carvings in the church, but what I have in mind is a museum or heritage centre that would cover the whole of the history of Kirkby Stephen and the Upper Eden, would complement existing displays and would encourage more footfall in businesses in the town and surrounding villages. It would also be a useful resource for the town and surrounding villages, helping the schools to teach local history and providing another focus for the community.

This idea has been considered previously and it is easier to talk about a museum and heritage centre than to create one. There would be a need to identify suitable premises, to put together the exhibits and displays, to find staff and volunteers and to find finance. However, considering the advantages that it would bring to Kirkby Stephen and the Upper Eden I think the effort would be worthwhile. With the coronavirus pandemic coming to an end it would be an opportune time for the public, community & commercial bodies in Kirkby Stephen to come together to make a museum and heritage centre a reality.

And the same argument would apply, of course, to similar towns in all parts of Britain and, indeed, in other countries as well.

My next webinars will be as follows. For further information or to book a place please follow the links:

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