A Damp Squib in the Long Grass: The Report of the Commission on a Bill of Rights

Long grass: which is where the report of the Bill of Rights Commission is likely to end up
Long grass: which is where the report of the Bill of Rights Commission is likely to end up

In December 2012, the Report of the Commission on a Bill of Rights was published. The Commission was established by the Coalition Government to consider how human rights should be protected in UK law – and, in particular, whether the Human Rights Act 1998 should be repealed and replaced with a new UK Bill of Rights. The Report was somewhat underwhelming – not least because the Commission was so divided. As a result, very little by way of real consensus as to the way forward emerged from the Report.

Shortly after the publication of the Report, I posted a piece entitled “Ten things you wanted to know about the Bill of Rights Commission’s report but were afraid to ask”. I have now finished writing a longer article, entitled “A Damp Squib in the Long Grass: The Report of the Commission on a Bill of Rights”. The abstract of the article, which gives an idea of its scope and of the view I take of the Commission’s Report, is as follows:

In December 2012, the Commission on a Bill of Rights, established by the UK Government, issued its final report. The Report advances very limited, inchoate proposals for a UK Bill of Rights that are essentially superficial in nature. The Report fails to grapple with the fundamental questions that would naturally fall to be confronted as part of a serious debate about the future direction of human rights protection in the UK. The failure of the majority clearly to articulate what it understands a Bill of Rights to be renders vacuous its recommendation that such legislation be adopted in due course. While the proposals contained in the Report are highly unlikely to be implemented in the foreseeable future, the shortcomings of the Report – and of the process that yielded it – contain important lessons for how future debates of this nature ought to be conducted.

The article will be published in the second issue of the 2013 volume of the European Human Rights Law Review. However, the text of a near-final draft of the article can be read here.

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