Human Rights in the United Kingdom: Where Now?

I have made a short video for the Cambridge Faculty of Law’s Law in Focus series concerning the proposal to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and enact a British Bill of Rights. The video can be accessed here or viewed below. In my talk, I address three key questions raised by these proposals. First, what lies behind the desire of some politicians to secure the Human Rights Act’s repeal? Second, how might a British Bill of Rights differ from the present legislation? And, third, what constitutional obstacles might lie in the way of the implementation of these reforms?

In relation to the last of those three issues, the argument is developed that although the UK Parliament has the legal power to legislate for the proposed changes, the increasingly multi-layered nature of the British constitution limits Parliament’s capacity to exploit its sovereign legislative authority. In particular, the constraining effects of international law – in the form of the European Convention on Human Rights – and the devolved nature of the modern British constitution are likely to limit the UK Government’s room for manoeuvre. As a result, it is likely to be difficult to deliver upon the manifesto commitments that were made in a legally coherent and constitutionally legitimate manner.

 

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