Friday, 7 January 2022

Early Reaction to government's human rights proposals

This post looks at some of the immediate reaction to the government's consultation on the Human Rights Act 1998. At the time of writing (7 January 2022), the reaction has been almost entirely against most of the government's proposals. 

Actually leaving the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) has been ruled out. That may be because renouncing the convention would be a "bad look" for a government which likes to lecture others on human rights (often justifiably) and which has a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UK membership expires in 2023). It would also play badly with the Council of Europe which is Europe's leading human rights organisation.  The Council comprises 47 member States and all are signatories to the ECHR. Northern Ireland adds further reason to remain a signatory given that human rights are woven into the peace settlement brought about with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Then there is the relationship with the European Union

for which see this post - EU Law Analysis: Analysis 3 of the Brexit deal: Human Rights and EU/UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement

Whilst the Independent Review made only limited recommendations for reform, the government proposes to go much further. My look at the Independent Panel's report commences HERE and the Government's Consultation is considered from HERE.


The Equality and Human Rights Commission 14 December - Response to proposed Human Rights Act reforms | Equality and Human Rights Commission (

The Northern Ireland Human Rights CommissionNI Human Rights Chief Commissioner Responds to Proposed Replacement of the Human Rights Act | Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission ( - "The UK Government’s plan to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights is not only unnecessary, it risks being divisive. The Human Rights Act has long protected the rights of all people in Northern Ireland and it has done so in a way that is reasonable and balanced. The ‘problems’ identified by the UK Government are not problems created by the Human Rights Act; quite the contrary."

Scottish Human Rights Commission - "The planned “overhaul” set out by the UK Government today is unnecessary, regressive and divisive. It risks watering down key elements of the legal protection the Act provides for us all. This will leave ordinary people with less access to justice and a weakened ability to hold the state to account."

Scotland Law Society

The British Institute of Human Rights issued an "explainer" - Human Rights Act Review: New Consultation (

Conor Gearty on 16  and 17 December. See LSE blog 16 December - The consultation on the Human Rights Act: an incoherent proposal full of grand but empty gestures, and some nastiness and, on 17 December, The Government’s Plans for Human Rights | Conor Gearty

Writing in The Justice Gap, journalist Jon Robins described the government's plans as an unashamed power grab - Justice Gap 14 December

Nicholas Reed Langen - also in the Justice Gap 19 December  - condemned the proposals as a Distorted Vision of Human Rights. "Rather than accept that human rights exist to protect us all, the British population has adopted a reductive understanding of human rights, something for the few, not the many. Such a flawed perception has placed human rights on unstable ground, and has made them susceptible to unscrupulous governments, like that led by the current prime minister."

Alan Green, writing in The Oxford Human Rights Hub 19 December, comments - "Ultimately, these proposals are solutions in search of a problem. The motivation behind them is not to address some serious legal shortfalls affecting the HRA; instead, it is in their political utility" - Culture Wars and Constitutional Statutes: The Government’s Proposed Human Rights Act Reforms | OHRH (

The UK Human Rights Blog's weekly roundup published on 20 December - The Weekly Round-up: Human Rights Act reform, citizenship for Windrush claimants and European parenting rights - UK Human Rights Blog - noted in particular the proposed permission stage "making reliance on human rights more difficult and time-consuming for claimants."

The Law Society Gazette 17 December - "Driving a coach and horses through human rights protections and legal certainty risks damaging the UK’s international standing and could impact its attraction as a place to do business, the Law Society has said in an initial response to the government’s plan to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights."

Helen Fenwick - The Conversation 15 December - notes 5 elements in the proposals to which attention must be paid: Deportation and rights claims, Permission stage, Strengthening press freedoms, trial by jury, protecting public authorities - Five takeaways from the UK government’s proposal to replace the Human Rights Act

Richard Clayton QC writing on the Constitutional Law Group blog - Richard Clayton: The Government’s New Proposals for the Human Rights Act; Part One – The Proposals in Outline – UK Constitutional Law Association

and Part 2 and Part 3 of Mr Clayton's assessment.

House of Commons Library Research Briefing

The consultation is open until 8 March 2022 and there will doubtless be many more reactions as well as formal responses to the consultation. Overall, the government's proposals will make claims based on human rights much harder. The proposals are regressive, illiberal, reduce human rights protection, and go well beyond the recommendations of the Independent Panel which offered a careful analysis of the present-day situation.

7 January 2022

The Independent Human Rights Act Review and the government's Bill of Rights - UK Human Rights Blog

Human Rights Act ain’t broke - by Joshua Rozenberg (

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