Monday, 13 December 2021

Human Rights Act ~ government plans for reform

On 14 December the Secretary of State for Justice (Dominic Raab MP) announced the long-awaited consultation on reform of the Human Rights Act 1998.  Also published was the report of the Independent Review of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Commons Statement - Human Rights Legislation - Hansard - UK Parliament

Human Rights Act Reform: A Modern Bill of Rights - GOV.UK ( - with link to consultation document (123 pages pdf)

Independent Review of Human Rights Act 1998 - report - (580 pages pdf)

Below the page break is the text of my blogpost of 13 December - i.e. prior to the government's announcement.

Post of 13 December 2021 -

Policy Exchange claims to be 'the UK's leading think tank' with a mission to 'develop and promote new policy ideas which deliver better public services, a stronger society and a more dynamic economy.'

On 11 December they published Human Rights Law Reform - How and Why to Amend the Human Rights Act 1998 - authors Richard Ekins (Professor of Law and Constitutional Government - Oxford) and John Larkin QC (a former Attorney-General for Northern Ireland).

Human Rights Law Reform | Policy Exchange

The timing of this is significant since the Secretary of State for Justice (Dominic Raab MP) is expected to announce a consultation on Human Rights before the Christmas/New Year recess. 

The Policy Exchange paper -

'is the text of the submission made on behalf of Policy Exchange’s Judicial Power Project to the Independent Human Rights Act Review, chaired by Sir Peter Gross.  The paper argues that the Human Rights Act 1998 is not a good means to secure, protect and promote human rights.  The Act puts courts in a difficult position, inviting and requiring them to address political questions which they may have neither competence nor legitimacy to address.  The Act encourages political litigation, making important modes of governing subject to judicial challenge or control and destabilising legislation on which one should otherwise be able to rely.  There is a strong case for repealing the Act altogether, even if the UK remains a signatory of the ECHR.  However, at a minimum, the Act should be amended to mitigate the constitutional problems to which it gives rise.'

The paper has a Foreword by Lord Sumption - formerly a Justice of the Supreme Court and that has prompted The Times to publish an article by the newspaper's Home Affairs Editor Matt Dathan with the headline -

Human rights act a danger to democracy, says ex-judge Lord Sumption | The Times (£ paywall).

It is fair to say that Lord Sumption's typically well argued foreword is vastly more nuanced than such a headline suggests. It is vital that people read beyond such headlines.

It is to be hoped that any announcement by Dominic Raab will be accompanied by the simultaneous publication in full of Sir Peter Gross' report which has been on Raab's desk since the end of October. Meanwhile, the Policy Exchange paper including Sumption's Foreword makes for good "warm up" material. 

Over to you to read it full. You should do so since, as I have often indicated on this blog, there are good reasons to believe that our protections for human rights are under sustained attack from a government which continually seeks to get through Parliament considerably illiberal legislation. Just one example of this is their attack on the ability of individuals to protest which I looked at in this recent post. See also the changes to judicial review included by the government in the Judicial Review and Courts Bill. [The full Bill may be seen HERE].

Of course, the Policy Exchange viewpoint is bound to be far from the only viewpoint on this subject. Here is a very different view put forward by the British Institute of Human Rights - British Institute of Human Rights and see their submission to the independent review.

Reaction from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is likely to be highly important given that those parts of the UK have devolved government.

It is very likely that any announcement by Dominic Raab will be followed by a huge volume of legal comment. I will do my best to look at some of it but I recommend -

Parliament - Joint Committee of Human Rights 

Equality and Human Rights Commission

British Institute of Human Rights and see their submission to the independent review

Law Society

Bar Human Rights Committee

The Justice Gap


Amnesty UK

Public Law for Everyone

Joshua Rozenberg  and see this article from the blog

Law and Policy Blog - David Allen Green

I'm sure there will be many more !


UK to unveil Human Rights Act reform proposals - BBC News

Dominic Raab’s paper seen as fulfilment of quest to destroy Human Rights Act | Dominic Raab | The Guardian

Raab’s plans to reform the Human Rights Act amount to ‘unashamed power grab’ – The Justice Gap

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