Updated 9 February 2022: Upholding human rights in the UK: EDM (Early Day Motion) #974: tabled on 09 February 2022
That this House notes that the Human Rights Act 1998 gives expression to values that are fundamental to the way of life in the UK, such as protecting the right to protest, freedom of expression and respect for privacy; is concerned by warnings from human rights organisations such as Amnesty UK, Justice and Liberty that the Government is undermining basic rights and liberties enshrined in the Act; notes with alarm that the Human Rights Act Review is taking place within the context of a series of other legislative moves by the Government to enhance the power of the Executive, including measures to curtail judicial reviews, which will reduce scrutiny of Government behaviour and opportunities for legal redress; believes that any growth in Declarations of Incompatibility with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights would lead to lengthy delays in human rights concerns being addressed and restrict access to justice; and therefore calls on the Government to continue to uphold human rights and ensure that everyone can seek timely redress in the UK courts if rights are breached.
Updated 9 February 2022: Individual control over our own bodies is a precondition for the individual exercise of rights and responsibilities.
We don’t need a consultation. The current Human Rights Act – albeit imperfect – is based on the European Convention for Human Rights. We need to continue adhering to this, not tinker unilaterally and in the process erode rights.
There is nothing to prevent the Government from adding protective laws.
In the meantime, there is no personal responsibility – or individual rights – without everyone of us being able to exercise personal control over what happens to our own bodies and the bodies of those who we care for where no harm is done . No rights or responsibilities are meaningful without the power to exercise this most fundamental control – over our own bodies.
Link to proposal to ‘reform’ the Human Rights Act, and consultation (closes 8 March 2022), here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/plan-to-reform-human-rights-act
The Government commissioned the following report as an advisory starting point – see the Executive summary here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/independent-human-rights-act-review
15 December 2021: The British Institute of Human Rights: Government obsession with “overhauling” our Human Rights Act risks undermining all our rights
The Justice Minister, Dominic Raab MP, has written a piece in The Times announcing plans to “overhaul” our Human Rights Act, to be published today, alongside the long-awaited independent report on our law, started under the previous Minister, Robert Buckland MP, which has remained unpublished since Mr Raab was installed in September’s reshuffle. Sadly, Mr Raab is yet again relying on a specific immigration case from over a decade ago, the law has since changed, the “problem” has been fixed, and in referring to domestic abuse the Minister fails to recognise how our Human Rights Act is one of the very few laws that enables survivors to hold authorities to account for failing to protect them.
Our Human Rights Act safeguards the rights of every single person in the UK, rights that are about making sure everyone, no matter who they are, is treated with equal dignity and respect. If the government or public bodies overstep the mark, ordinary people can hold them to account in our everyday discussions with those making decisions effecting our lives. Or if needed, people can seek justice in the courts; and whilst judges cannot change the law, the courts decide if people’s human rights have been breached and say this should stop. It is for Parliament to change the law, as it so often chooses to do, when our rights are being risked. Our Human Rights Act respects the democratic system we have in the UK.
Speaking about news of the publication of plans to “overhaul” our Human Rights Act, Sanchita Hosali, our Director said:
“After months of sitting on the findings of Independent Human Rights Act Review the Government will finally release the report the same day as issuing yet more questions aimed at fulfilling the agenda to “overhaul” our law. At BIHR, we worked with 400 people in our own submission to the Review, and alongside so many others, sent a strong, clear message that our Human Rights Act is working well to safeguard everyone’s rights and help people hold officials to account. Like parliamentarians at the Joint Committee on Human Rights we remain unconvinced that there is any case for change.
“Our Human Rights Act, a Bill of Rights in all but name, is both careful and considered, respecting the UK’s political traditions where no one should be above the law, including the government, recognising the separate and important roles of parliament and the courts, all of which seeks to ensure democratic accountability.
“Our Human Rights Act is not simply a question of legal technicalities, it is about supporting ordinary people to be heard and to reach respectful, dignified decisions that matter in everyday life, whether that is in education or housing, health or care, the local council or a national regulator. Sadly, this lived experience is rarely part of the debate in the UK, conveniently ignored, and yet these are real life stories of how our Human Rights Act is working for people here at home. We hope Mr Raab will show himself to be different; rather than repeating references to an outdated immigration example involving a perpetrator of domestic abuse, if the Justice Secretary is genuinely concerned about violence against women, he could instead focus on hearing from the very many survivors for whom our Human Rights Act offers the only means of getting accountability when they are failed by those who should protect them.
“Of course, all governments sometimes find human rights laws inconvenient, because ultimately these are rules that limit their power. What is happening here is something quite different. Just days after CEOs of more than 150 organisations from across the UK called on the Prime Minister to secure our Human Rights Act, those bound by these rules are the ones calling for change, changes to their accountability which they seek to direct. Our Human Rights Act embodies standards that we helped forge in the aftermath of World War II, values which must be more than a romanticised look to the past, values which unite us all now; our Human Rights Act must continue today, tomorrow, and every day”
Further comments to follow, as the plans and reports are published, and following the Minister’s statement in parliament.
Visit our Why Our Human Rights Act Matters pages to see stories and evidence from people across the UK on how they are benefiting from the law, this includes the following:
- Why Our Human Rights Act matters to me as the mother of a young person who was held in mental health hospitals and subjected to restricted practices
- Why Our Human Rights Act matters to members of the armed forces and their loved ones
- Why Our Human Rights Act matters to the people supported by Scotland’s national friendship and dating agency run by and for people with learning disabilities
- Why our Human Rights Act Matters to people living with dementia
Liberty has condemned plans to reform the Human Rights Act – announced by the Government today – as “a blatant, unashamed power grab.”
The human rights organisation has been campaigning against an array of measures put forward by the Government with the aim of making it untouchable. This latest move threatens to fatally weaken our rights protections and put Government beyond accountability, Liberty says.
Liberty’s Director, Martha Spurrier, said: “This plan to reform the Human Rights Act is a blatant, unashamed power grab from a Government that wants to put themselves above the law. They are quite literally rewriting the rules in their favour so they become untouchable.
“The Human Rights Act protects all of us. We lose it at our peril. It is an essential law that allows us to challenge public authorities when they get it wrong and has helped secure justice on everything from the right to life to the right to free speech. Through using the Human Rights Act, Liberty has supported LGBT military veterans get their medals back after they were stripped away from them because of their sexuality. We’ve helped unmarried women rightfully receive their widow’s pension after the death of their partners where the existing law stopped them. The Human Rights Act has changed many lives for the better. It must be protected from political interference intent on making state power unaccountable.
“This reform is a threat to how and when we can challenge those in power – including stripping some people’s rights away and requiring everyone to get permission from a judge before they can take the state to court. Whatever you think of this Government, they must respect the rule of law. This change will mean future Governments, of all political leanings, will be beyond the reach of public accountability.
“Today’s announcement is being cast as strengthening our rights when in fact if this plan goes through, they will be fatally weakened. This Government is systematically shutting down all avenues of accountability through a succession of rushed and oppressive Bills. We must ensure the government changes course as a matter of urgency, before we very quickly find ourselves wondering where our fundamental human rights have gone.”
Justice secretary calls for new ‘bill of rights’ after going against recommendations of government-commissioned review
Dominic Raab’s plan to overhaul the Human Rights Act is “authoritarian” and will weaken protections for ordinary citizens, MPs have warned.
The justice secretary has opened a public consultation to replace the law with a new “bill of rights”, which aims to stop foreign offenders asserting their rights to a family life to stop deportations.
The proposals go far beyond an official review commissioned by the Conservative government, which made several recommendations but concluded that “the Human Rights Act works well and has benefited many”.
It did not call for the law to be scrapped, and found there was an “overwhelming body of support for retaining” it.
But Mr Raab told the House of Commons that his proposals would uphold the European Convention of Human Rights and “prevent misuse and distortion”.
“We will replace section three of the Human Rights Act so that our courts are confined to judicial interpretation and are no longer – effectively, in practice – licensed by the act to amend or dilute the will of parliament expressed through statute,” he added.