Michael Gove, the Justice Committee and the Human Rights Act

The new Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Michael Gove, gave evidence for the first time today to the House of Commons Justice Committee. We learned a little, but not a great deal, about the Government’s current thinking in relation to the replacement of the Human Rights Act 1998 with a British Bill of Rights. However, five points made by Gove are worth noting. First, he signalled that “proposals” will be published “in the autumn”. However, it is not clear from what Gove told the Committee whether those proposals will (in the first instance) be accompanied by a draft Bill. Second, … Continue reading Michael Gove, the Justice Committee and the Human Rights Act

What does a Conservative government mean for the future of human rights in the UK?

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— it is explicitly stated in the manifesto — is that the Conservative Party wishes to see the Human Rights Act 1998 repealed and replaced with a “British Bill of Rights”.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. Continue reading “What does a Conservative government mean for the future of human rights in the UK?”

Beyond the European Convention: Human Rights and the Common Law

I gave a Current Legal Problems lecture in March concerning the relationship between common-law constitutional rights and the system of rights protection that obtains under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights. I have now finished work on the article version of the lecture. The full text of the article can be downloaded here, via SSRN. Continue reading “Beyond the European Convention: Human Rights and the Common Law”

A Post-European British constitution: Plus ça change?

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?”

Lady Hale’s 2015 Bryce Lecture: The Supreme Court in the United Kingdom Constitution

Lady Hale gave the 2015 Bryce Lecture earlier this month, taking “The Supreme Court in the United Kingdom Constitution” as her title. The lecture does not break any new ground, but is a helpful overview of a range of issues concerning the constitutional authority of the courts vis-a-vis the other branches of government, with particular reference to contemporary issues relating to parliamentary sovereignty. In particular, Lady Hale considers the Jackson and AXA judgments, the implications for parliamentary sovereignty of devolution and membership of the European Union, and the courts’ role in relation to protecting fundamental rights. Law students, in particular, are likely to find this … Continue reading Lady Hale’s 2015 Bryce Lecture: The Supreme Court in the United Kingdom Constitution

#50cases — Three suggestions

Adam Wagner, editor of the excellent UK Human Rights Blog, is in the process of launching a new Human Rights Information Project, as part of which he is crowdsourcing “50 human rights cases absolutely everyone needs to know about“. Adam has asked for suggestions to be sent to humanrightsinformationproject@gmail.com by 5.00 pm on Friday 27 February 2015, so you still have a couple of days to get your suggestions to him. Here are my three nominations. In line with my own areas of interest, I have limited myself to decisions by UK courts, and have focussed on cases that relate to the protective … Continue reading #50cases — Three suggestions

Moohan: Prisoner voting, the independence referendum and the common law

I have been thinking a good deal recently — partly because I will soon be giving a Current Legal Problems lecture on the topic — about the relationship between common-law constitutional rights and rights enshrined in the ECHR and given domestic effect by the Human  Rights Act 1998. A stream of recent Supreme Court decisions — including Osborn v Parole Board [2013] UKSC 61, Kennedy v The Charity Commission [2014] UKSC 20, R (HS2 Action Alliance Ltd) v Secretary of State for Transport [2014] UKSC 3 and A v BBC [2014] UKSC 25 — has placed new emphasis upon the … Continue reading Moohan: Prisoner voting, the independence referendum and the common law