However much ministers may try to downplay the effects of the Human Rights Act, it's clear that the courts are going to face a barrage of claims.

The act has been in force only days and already the courts are full of human rights cases.

Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, has told judges they should be 'robust' in rejecting illfounded claims.

The trouble is that it's not so easy to identify these in advance. Lord Hope, a law lord, warned last week that judges who are too robust in throwing out claims could find themselves taken to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg for denying litigants a fair hearing.

And lawyers, who could be sued by their clients for failing to raise human rights points (since the law lords removed their immunity from negligence lawsuits over their court work last July) will be watching their backs.

Lord Hope advised judges to err more on the side of caution than robustness.

The Human Rights Act also gives new rights to damages for those whose rights are breached by public authorities.

The Law Commission says UK judges will have to take account of case law from the European Court of Human Rights on damages.