Call for human rights audit

Menzies Campbell last night accused the government of “trampling on human rights” by eroding civil liberties and failing to defend the Human Rights Act.

The Liberal Democrat leader called for an independent review of British freedoms to assess how much liberty has been lost under Labour.

Speaking at a civil liberties rally at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton, Mr Campbell said the present government was the “most centralising, authoritarian and intrusive in the post war era.”

He added: “There has been no right too precious, too hard won or too long standing for new Labour not to want to trample on it.”

The Lib Dem leader argued demeaning human rights in Britain insulted those who are living under oppressive circumstances abroad. He called on the prime minister to place Britain at the forefront of an international campaign to end tyranny in Zimbabwe.

Sir Menzies said the Liberal Democrats would “resolutely oppose” every authoritarian measure introduced by the government and would reclaim the language of human rights.

He promised to defend the Human Rights Act, which he argued had been undermined by an “unholy trinity” comprising of a cynical government, a compliant Conservative party and an indifferent media.

Civil liberties are the foundation of a free society and the birthright of every citizen, he argued, warning “we lose them at our peril”.

Sir Menzies vowed: “We will expose the myths of those who deny human rights. And we will take back the language of rights and freedoms.”

He challenged Gordon Brown to defend civil liberties, both at home and abroad.

Yesterday, following comments by former home secretary John Reid, the Conservatives reiterated their opposition to the Human Rights Act.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said the act “fosters spurious rights” and should be replaced with a British Bill of Rights.