Stephen Bowen, BIHR’s Director, responding to an article by Matthew Parris “Human Rights? They dissolve into hot air”, in The Times on 23 May had the following letter published in The Times on 25 May 2015:


I agree with Matthew Parris that putting human rights into practice can present challenges ("Human Rights? They dissolve into hot air," May 23) but that's no reason not to believe in them.
The point is that human rights don't trump each other. Fundamental, inalienable, basic? Yes, they are all of these things and more, and they can clash. It is the job of the UK courts to weigh up, for example, whether or not one person's right to free expression impinges too far on another's right to a private and family life.
However cynical Matthew Parris might be about Russia, I am sure of one thing - Vladimir Putin is unlikely to be encouraged to respect human rights by seeing the UK repeal it’s Human Rights Act, and certainly not by this country undermining the role of the European Court of Human Rights.
I am afraid I have one more piece of bad news for your eminent columnist. The pursuit of happiness has never been considered a human right. But perhaps the government has it in mind to make it one.

Stephen Bowen
Director, British Institute of Human Rights