HC Deb 16 February 1998 vol 306 cc761-2
42. Mr. Bradshaw

What representations he has received about the effect on Church finances of incorporating the European convention on human rights.[27626]

Mr. Stuart Bell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his interest in Church affairs. The European convention on human rights enshrines the right of religious freedom as well as other rights. I have had a number of representations raising various issues relating to the effect on the Church of making the European convention directly enforceable by the United Kingdom courts.

Mr. Bradshaw

Does my hon. Friend agree that human rights do not come free? Does he also therefore agree that it is unacceptable that the Church, of all organisations, should seek exemption from the Human Rights Bill?

Mr. Bell

Concern has been expressed in a number of quarters to the effect that the definition of "public authority" in the Bill will mean the Church of England and other Churches finding themselves subject to decisions of the courts on doctrinal matters. I have spoken to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary about these anxieties; he will refer to them in his opening remarks on Second Reading of the Human Rights Bill, which is to begin shortly.

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