Friday 3 July 2015

Human Rights ~ Parliament

The present government has committed itself to reform of human rights law.  In particular, it seeks to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and introduce a British Bill of Rights.  This week, two debates in Parliament were of considerable interest.  These are well worth watching in their entirety.

30th June 2015 - Westminster Hall debate and Hansard transcript of the debate  At 3.58 pm the response by Dominic Raab MP (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice) may be seen in which he sets out the government's concerns about the present human rights system.   Raab noted - in a problematically worded statement - "...  a Bill of Rights is perfectly possible, but it will not solve the problems or issues that have been the driving force behind the Government’s current project unless we intend to decouple ourselves from the European convention, which, mercifully, I understand not to be our policy."  He later referred to three concerns - (1) "exponential expansion of rights" that the design of the Human Rights Act has promoted, imposing "obligations on the State rather than constraining it"; (2) the effect that some of the "haphazard case law" has had on legal certainty and (3) the Human Rights Act has exposed us to "too much judicial legislation from Strasbourg" (e.g. regarding prisoners and voting). At the end of the debate, Raab refers to an article by Baroness Falkner dated 15th May in Prospect magazine - A British Bill of Rights is a good idea.

2nd July 2015 - House of Lords debate on Human Rights and Hansard transcript of the debate

and see also the House of Lords Library Note dated 26th June 2015 - Human Rights and Civil Liberties in the UK  The Lords debate is notable for the contributions by a number of eminent lawyers - Lord Wallace QC, Lord Lester QC, and former Lords of Appeal in Ordinary - Lord Carswell and Lord Brown. The Minister of State for Justice (Lord Faulks QC) clearly stated that leaving the European Convention was not part of the government's plans.  There would be full consultation on proposals and the government would be engaged with the devolved administrations and also the government of the Republic of Ireland (a party to the Good Friday Agreement).  The government's aim was to achieve a fair and just "One Nation" Bill of Rights that had public confidence.  The UK would continue to adhere to its many international obligations such as those under the Torture Convention.

For an interesting article looking at rights protections elsewhere in the British Commonwealth see UK Constitutional Law Association - HRA Watch: Reform, Repeal, Replace? Jane McLean: Giving Effect to International Human Rights Obligations: Possible Alternatives?

The Westminster Hall debate may be seen either via the link above or via the following

Suggest moving the "slider" to around time 14.40 to find the start of the debate.

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