It seems that the Conservative Party is on its way to forming an expectation-defying single-party government — which makes its plans for human-rights reform suddenly more relevant than they seemed a couple of days ago. What is clear — it is explicitly stated in the manifesto — is that the Conservative Party wishes to see the Human Rights Act 1998 repealed and replaced with a “British Bill of Rights”. Indeed, they promised precisely this in 2010, but were constrained by their Liberal Democrat coalition partners from getting rid of the HRA, instead kicking the issue into the long grass by establishing a Commission on a UK Bill of Rights. What is less clear is what would be in such a Bill of Rights (a draft was promised last year, but has not yet materialised) and whether the adoption of such legislation might turn out, by design or by accident, to place the UK on a collision course with the European Court of Human Rights that would result in the UK’s withdrawal from the Convention.
Of course, it may still be the case that a Conservative government would be unable to implement some or all of these plans on account of lacking a (sufficient) majority, and because of the constraining effects of devolution (the ECHR being, in effect, a constitutional bill of rights for each of the three devolved nations). But it is clear that repeal of the HRA, the adoption of a British Bill of Rights and perhaps even withdrawal from the ECHR are now less unthinkable than they were before the election results were known. I have therefore put together the following short list of blog posts that I have written in recent months concerning human-rights reform, with particular reference to what would happen if the Conservative Party were to be in a position to take some or all of the steps mentioned above:
- On the proposals for human-rights reform published by the Conservative Party in October 2014: My analysis of the Conservative Party’s proposals for a British Bill of Rights
- On the Conservatives’ 2015 manifesto: Human Rights and the Conservatives’ Manifesto: Four Comments
- On recent remarks by a Conservative Justice Minister suggesting that ECHR-withdrawal remains on the table: Are the Conservatives Still Contemplating Withdrawal from the ECHR?
- On the former Attorney-General’s criticism of the Conservatives’ human-rights position: Dominic Grieve on the Conservative Party’s Human-Rights Proposals
- On what a post-HRA, post-ECHR constitution might mean for human-rights protection in the UK: Beyond the European Convention: Human Rights and the Common Law
- On the legal position that applies for as long as the UK remains a party to the ECHR: The Three Dimensions of the Relationship Between UK Law and the ECHR
- On the report of the Commission on a UK Bill of Rights: European Human Rights Law Review Article on the Bill of Rights Commission