How This House Destroys Your Human Rights; Europe's Rules Let a Man Flout Planning Laws - and Start the Demolition of British Freedom

By Laughland, John | The Mail on Sunday (London, England), April 1, 2001 | Go to article overview

How This House Destroys Your Human Rights; Europe's Rules Let a Man Flout Planning Laws - and Start the Demolition of British Freedom


Laughland, John, The Mail on Sunday (London, England)


Byline: JOHN LAUGHLAND

The house in the New Forest is pleasant rather than remarkable. The five-bedroom property was built by Ken Duffy as his family home in defiance of planning laws in a sensitive rural location. Unlike other buildings which have contravened planning regulations and subsequently been demolished, Mr Duffy has won the right for his property to remain.

A planning inspector has overruled the local council and said the [pound]750,000 house cannot be demolished because to do so would infringe Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects 'respect for private and family life'.

Mr Duffy, a former nightclub owner from London, is doubtless delighted by this ruling. But the rest of us should be appalled. It confirms what opponents of the Human Rights Act have been saying all along - that it will destroy the very foundations of English law and society.

The council has now appealed to the High Court, so the house may yet be demolished. Even if it is, the planning inspector's ruling shows that the culture of rights is already eating away at our social fabric. His ruling could be adopted as a general principle - and we can say goodbye to planning regulations for ever.

When the Human Rights Act was introduced, activists said it would introduce a 'cultural change' into Britain. They were right. The Home Office's Human Rights Task Force issues guidelines for all officials, and the planning inspector in the New Forest was no doubt following them.

But the culture of rights encourages people to think they can act with no regard for the rest of society.

The notion of human rights is nonsense.

There are no human rights because all rights potentially conflict with other people's rights. My right to free speech may conflict with your right to personal dignity; the right to family life may conflict with the rights of children.

We have a judicial and political system to balance out these claims.

It is because no 'right' is absolute that, until now, the English legal system has preferred to speak of 'interests' instead.

If you replace the limited notion of interests with the limitless notion of rights, you prevent people from feeling grateful for the benefits society accords them, and you make them angry and resentful when they do not get what they want. …

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