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General Election 2010

Bournemouth Echo: elections banner 2010

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Tories 'dismayed' over Bill's delay

Fresh strains were showing in the new Lib-Con coalition as senior Tory MPs expressed "dismay" that plans to overhaul the Human Rights Act had been put on a backburner.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg risked further antagonising Conservative backbenchers after he issued a warning that they tampered with the Act "at their peril".

The commitment to repeal the Act - which enshrines the European Convention on Human Rights in UK law - and replace it with a British Bill of Rights was a key commitment in the Conservative manifesto.

But it emerged on Tuesday that the coalition Government had decided to set up a commission to look at the issue of whether there was a case for new British legislation.

The latest controversy flared as Mr Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron prepared to unveil the final coalition document on Thursday.

Tory MP Bill Cash - who, as shadow attorney general, had been instrumental in drawing up the original Conservative policy in opposition - said that he was "dismayed" at the latest developments and warned that there was "very acute" concern among Conservative MPs that the party's position was being watered down.

"I think our manifesto commitment was crystal clear. It said that we would replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One. He added: "We want things to work, we want stability, but there are also these democratic questions about being elected on manifesto commitments."

Asked about Mr Clegg's warning not to "tamper" with the act, Mr Cash retorted: "That is the view of Nick Clegg, it was not in my manifesto or my election address."

Conservative concerns about the Act were heightened by a tribunal ruling on Tuesday that two terrorist suspects - one described as an "al Qaida operative" who still posed a threat to UK security - could not be deported to Pakistan because of concerns for their safety if they were sent back.

Mr Clegg, speaking to students in north London, said that it was a "source of great regret" that there was no formal agreement between Pakistan and the UK which would have enabled the men to have been returned, however the Lib Dem leader stressed that any British Bill of Rights introduced by the Lib-Con coalition would preserve the principles of the European Convention.

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