Sunday 26 December 2021

The Government's consultation on Human Rights Act ~ (1)

On 14 December, the government published the report of the Independent Review of the Human Rights Act 1998 and also published a consultation containing the government's proposals for change. The consultation is open for responses until 8 March 2022.

Commons Statement 14 December 2021 - 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)

The Independent Review:

Independent Review of Human Rights Act 1998 - report - (580 pages pdf). The review was

constrained by the Terms of Reference given to the Review Panel and the Panel's report therefore remains mostly within the bounds set by those terms. The previous 5 posts on this blog looked at the report.

The review received many responses to its Call for Evidence. The responses may be seen via the Panel's webpage. It is a credit to the Panel as a whole that they have shown independence and objectivity in the preparation of their report.

The Panel's actual recommendations amount to some modest changes to the Human Rights Act 1998 (the HRA) together with a push for the government to engage in dialogue with the Council of Europe over matters such as the extra-territorial application and the temporal application of the Convention.

The government has affirmed that it does not intend to withdraw the UK from the convention. 


The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) operates under the aegis of the Council of Europe and NOT the European Union. The Council of Europe dates from 1949 and the UK was a founding member. It currently has 47 member States.

The ECHR was signed in Rome on 2 November 1950 and was ratified by the UK on 8 March 1951. From 14 January 1966 the UK accepted the right of individual petition and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

The UK has been a party to a considerable number of cases at the ECtHR and those from 1975 up to October 2019 may be seen at -

UK cases at the European Court of Human Rights since 1975 (

Reform - The HRA has been in the sights of Conservative politicians for a considerable time and they might have pushed reform earlier had it not been for the focus on achieving Brexit.

In March 2011 the then government set up a Commission on a UK Bill of Rights which reported in December 2012.

Law and Lawyers: Commission on a U.K. Bill of Rights (

Law and Lawyers: Search results for Commission on uk bill of rights (

In 2014, the Secretary of State for Justice was Chris Grayling MP and he published "Protecting Human Rights in the UK". This risible document continually referred to "Labour's Human Rights Act", made dewey-eyed references to Magna Carta and claimed that the "common law tradition" had protected rights for centuries. It also claimed that the HRA had undermined the sovereignty of Parliament. A similar nonsensical claim was made regarding the European Union (EU) during the Brexit campaign with its references to taking back control of borders, money and laws.

In September 2021, Dominic Raab MP became the Secretary of State for Justice: the 8th to hold that office since the general election in May 2010.  Raab had responsibilities for human rights when he was Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Justice in the period 2015-16.

The review of the HRA was commissioned by the Secretary of State for Justice (then Robert Buckland QC MP) on 7 December 2020 and was conducted by a panel of 8 including the Chair - former Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Peter Gross. It was therefore Buckland who set the Panel's terms of reference.

In announcing the consultation, the government stated that it is committed to "updating" the HRA and would replace it with a Bill of Rights which the government claims will " restore a proper balance between the right of individuals, personal responsibility and the wider public interest."

The consultation -

The government's consultation document provides a "background to the domestic and international human rights context" and "explores issues that have emerged with how the HRA1998 operates in practice and outlines the case for reform." The proposed reforms are set out in Chapter 4.

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

Before taking a look at detail in the government's proposals it needs to be said that if the Review Panel had identified any serious LEGAL problems with the HRA it would undoubtedly have said so. It did not and, as already noted, proposed only some modest reforms.  Contrary to what many politicians would have us believe, the Report noted the careful and respectful approach of judges in the UK to legislation enacted by Parliament. Judges have generally been cautious not to tread on policy areas which are properly the responsibility of Ministers and Parliament. 

Interestingly, some of the reform proposals put to the Review Panel by various sources had the potential to result in much more far-reaching change - Law and Lawyers 13 December: Human Rights Act ~ government plans for reform (

Several of the government Bills being considered by Parliament contain illiberal proposals aimed more at protecting the Executive from criticism. A prime example of this is with the attack on protest within the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill -

Law and Lawyers: Limiting freedom to protest - late-in-the-day government amendments to Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (

A further example is that the Judicial Review and Courts Bill will undoubtedly make it harder for citizens to bring legal challenges against the government -

Law and Lawyers: Judicial Review and Courts Bill ~ proposed changes to judicial review (

The government's Human Rights Act proposals therefore have a considerable political context and are  aimed at protecting the government from legal challenge and pleasing the government's political supporters both within their political party and the media. The proposals are unlikely to do much, if anything, to enhance the protection of rights for most citizens within the UK.

Continued HERE .....

26 December 2021 

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