The new Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Elizabeth Truss, gave evidence to the House of Commons Justice Committee earlier this week. She was questioned on a range of matters, including the Government’s long-awaited proposals for replacing the Human Rights Act 1998 with a British Bill of Rights. Truss’s answers to the Committee’s questions on this matter suggest that she is either playing her cards close to her chest or that the Government’s thinking is — putting the matter at its very highest — extremely embryonic. Indeed, the Justice Secretary’s evidence tells us nothing that we did not already know — … Continue reading The new Justice Secretary, Elizabeth Truss, on a British Bill of Rights
This year’s Queen’s Speech touches on two possible constitutional reform measures. (I pass over the Wales Bill, which was published in draft in October 2015.) The first concerns the replacement of the Human Rights Act 1998 with a “British Bill of Rights”, while second concerns the sovereignty of Parliament and the “primacy” of the House of Commons. If implemented, these measures would be highly significant. But the signs are that, for the time being anyway, they may amount to very little in practice — not least because the Government’s thinking in relation to them appears to be undeveloped to say … Continue reading The 2016 Queen’s Speech and the Constitution
The Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, gave evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee earlier today. In this brief post, I pick up on just one of the issues raised by his evidence, namely the notion that the UK Supreme Court might be made, by a British Bill of Rights, into what Gove called a ‘constitutional longstop’ court—a constitutional court, in other words. This builds to some extent on the ill-defined notion, advanced by Gove’s predecessor, Chris Grayling, of ‘making the UK Supreme Court supreme’. However, I have pointed out before that this notion was always more about … Continue reading The UK Supreme Court as a constitutional ‘longstop’: Michael Gove’s evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee
RightsInfo, which is setting a very high bar indeed in terms of the visual explanation of human-rights-related issues, has just launched an excellent two-minute animation on human-rights basics. If you want to know what human rights are and are looking for an accessible way in, it’s a great starting-point. Of course, the points made in the animation don’t establish that the principal texts to which it refers — the European Convention on Human Rights and the UK’s Human Rights Act 1998 — are perfect. Nor does the animation (in my view at least) deliver a knock-out argument against the repeal of the … Continue reading RightsInfo: What are Human Rights?
I am giving a Current Legal Problems lecture at the UCL Faculty of Laws later this week. The lecture is entitled: “A post-European British constitution: Plus ça change?” The following is the opening section of the lecture; it gives a taste of the themes I plan to explore and the arguments I propose to make.
Public lawyers are used to living in interesting times. Indeed, over the last 15 or so years, the British constitution has been in an almost-permanent state of flux, beginning with the big-bang reforms of the first Blair Administration. And those interesting times are not — or at least may not yet be — over. As is well known, the Conservative Party has indicated — as it did in 2010 — a desire to repeal the Human Rights Act and to replace it with a British Bill of Rights. In a policy document published late last year, it acknowledged that such legislation might place the UK on a collision course with the Council of Europe, and explicitly contemplated the possibility of withdrawal from the European Convention. Nor can continued British membership of the European Union be taken for granted, given the prospect of an in-out referendum in the next Parliament. Continue reading “A Post-European British constitution: Plus ça change?”
The recently sacked Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve, gave a powerful and thoughtful lecture last night at UCL, entitled “Why Human Rights should matter to Conservatives“. The lecture is worth reading in full, and I will not attempt to summarise it here. However, the following passages — which form part of a trenchant critique of the Conservative Party’s proposals to repeal the Human Rights Act and enact a domestic Bill of Rights that would contemplate non-compliance with ECHR obligations — are particularly noteworthy. Continue reading “Dominic Grieve on the Conservative Party’s human-rights proposals”
I wrote earlier this week about David Cameron’s announcement at the Conservative Party conference that a future Tory government would repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. Cameron gave very little away in his speech, but more detailed proposals — although not yet a draft Bill — have now been published.
If implemented, the proposed changes — contained in a Conservative Party (not a Government) paper entitled Protecting Human Rights in the UK — would yield very significant changes. No mere rebranding exercise, the Conservatives’ Bill of Rights would significantly limit domestic courts’ powers relative to those they have under the Human Rights Act, and reshape — as a matter of domestic law — the influence of the European Convention on Human Rights.