Both the Guardian and the Telegraph have reported this week that the government’s plans for a “Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” is facing a Cabinet revolt, led by Jacqui Smith. I’m not at all surprised that it’s running into trouble – I’ve long thought this is a nonsensical proposal and that nothing about it had been thought through at all, neither the politics nor the policy.

Clearly some minister has told these newspapers that Home Office lawyers somehow back the opposition to the bill. That can’t quite be right, or shouldn’t be: government lawyers have no business backing or opposing policy options. What they can and should properly do is point out the difficulties the bill would involve, and give their views of how it might work if passed. I’ve absolutely no doubt Home Office lawyers can think of many potential problems with it, and that that advice is being used by Home Office ministers to back their own views. It may also be – this would be sad but all too credible – that officials and lawyers have been captured by institutional departmental views (a wide-eyed pro-rights view from Minijust, and a Scroogelike anti-rights grumpiness from Home Office) and that legal advice is being too influenced by them.

I’m not constrained in my views of course, no longer being a civil servant (hooray!). If I were a minister, I’d be against this bill: I don’t think Minijust has ever been clear what it’s supposed to do – “clarify” the Human Rights Act or try to limit it (which would be doing David Cameron’s work for him), somehow cheerleading for it, which would be a waste of time, or adding rights to it, which I agree would risk giving judges vague and excessive power which neither they nor the public want. This bill should just be scrapped.