Civil Legal Aid
has always been very limited in environmental cases and not
available at all for Public Inquires.
Now it is being abolished and replaced
with the ill-conceived no win no fee contingency scheme -
completely useless for non damages related environmental cases,
or for cases with less than 75% chance of a successful outcome,
you are still required to find up front costs which are not
recoverable if you lose, and in any event can be substantial.
You, having had the misfortune
to have been exposed to chemicals, will now find the situation
compounded by the denial of basic human rights, which is determined
by your ability to pay. We cannot afford this doctrine.
Tony Blair in Chicago April 1999,
said ‘we cannot turn our backs on the violation of human
rights in other countries if we want to be secure’.
However, the action of Blair’s government that allowed
the Metropolitan Police to crack down on British demonstrators
calling for better human rights in China and Tibet, and the
fact that Tony Blair was also the first western leader to
go to Moscow and shake hands with the liberator of Chechnya,
puts his words into a different light. Did he not mean instead
we cannot turn our backs on the violation of human rights
as long as it happens somewhere small and weak, with 1970's
Yet, right under Tony Blair’s
nose routine misuse and abuse of statutory powers by the government,
civil service, councils, industry and the judiciary themselves
continues to prevail. The violation of human rights is happening
here in Britain today throughout these monoliths, and as routinely
they are swept under the carpet or details of them are gagged.
Do you remember Dr Arpad Pusztai
and his warning about genetically modified food? The moral
implications of his findings made him go public prior to publication
of his data. He was seen on World in Action with the PR in
attendance from the institute in which he worked. This was
politically incorrect. He was silenced, his data confiscated,
cut off from communication and his team disbanded. It seems
that being right, telling the truth, maintaining scientific
integrity means nothing if you don’t tell politicians
what they want to hear. His human rights were violated against.
Another case, at British Biotech,
demonstrates the need for clinical trials to be completely
independent of the pharmaceutical companies. Dr Andrew Millar,
in the best interest of the patients involved, revealed that
drug trials were not going as well as the company claimed.
The patients human rights were being violated by the company
too eager in their drug development. Professor John Hampton
in the British Medical Journal (January 2000), suggests that
the pharmaceutical industry A must be kept at arm’s
length from the development of it’s own drugs’
and that British Biotech showed the industry at it’s
The integrity of the study was
lost and Dr Millar’s integrity grew but at what cost?
The Human Rights Act has entrenched a huge change to the balance
of power, away from elected representatives and in favour
of judges. It incorporates the European Convention on Human
Rights into our law and effectively allows judges to insist
on the rewriting of legislation which they believe is inconsistent
with the ECHR. Basically the principles of the right to a
fair hearing and innocent until proven guilty are being eroded.
The matters are decided by judges free from election and accountable
to none. Surely the means by which laws in this country derive
their legitimacy is through public consent, conferred by parliament
If we, the people are not listened
to and elections cannot alter what judges decide, what is
our opinion worth? Elections should ensure that laws reflect
popular sentiment, as it is not possible to divorce human
rights from politics. Rights are the consequence of political
Here, at the Environmental Law Centre, we hope to provide
a vehicle through which individual or community voices can
be heard, we shall fight for fair hearings and use the law
to it’s full extent and make it work for you.