Human Rights Act campaign

The British Institute of Human Rights is running a campaign against the repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 – a prospect that is arguably more likely following the appointment of Chris Grayling as the new Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor.  You can add your voice to the campaign by following this link. The BIHR will then pass on your view, together with any comments you want to add, to the Commission on a UK Bill of Rights, which is presently considering what, if anything, to do about the Human Rights Act.

My comments, for what they’re worth, were as follows:

Much of the political rhetoric underlying the debate about the Human Rights Act wrongly assumes that amending the Act, repealing it or replacing it with a “British Bill of Rights” would somehow alter the legal position. In truth, of course, it would not: the UK would continue to be bound by the ECHR as interpreted by the ECtHR. Repealing the HRA could therefore only advance a disreputable policy of making it harder for people to enforce rights that they have and would (under the ECHR) continue to have, by reinstating the long “road to Strasbourg” that had to be traversed before the HRA “brought rights home”.

A British Bill of Rights that added to the HRA (eg by extending the range of rights subject to legal protection) would of course be a different matter, but it seems clear that much of the impetus for the debate stems from a desire to reduce, rather than enhance, protection of human rights.

In nearly every other country, the HRA would be an aspect of a written constitution the amendment of which would require broad consensus. The nature of the debate (such as it is) that the Commission has thus far stimulated suggests that no such consensus is close to being established.

If you want to know more about this, take a look at this paper, which I wrote for the University of Cambridge Centre for Public Law as its response to an earlier consultation by the Commission on a UK Bill of Rights.

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