Incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights will force judges to make decisions based on social policy, despite their traditional reluctance to do so, claims a legal ethics expert.

Professor Ian Kennedy, professor of health law, ethics and policy at University College London, told the conference that courts could no longer hide behind the phrase "it's a matter for Parliament" after incorporation. He said judges would have to make decisions based on, for example, allocation of resources in the health system that would lead to collisions with government.

In a panel discussion, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, agreed incorporation would require barristers and judges to make decisions "increasingly on considerations of morality and justifiability". Decisions would be more closely related to questions of social policy and democratic practice, he said. "We must look to the future, in which the demands on lawyers are broader and less technical, and perhaps more judgmental. It is a challenge which I think is exciting."