The new Justice Secretary, Elizabeth Truss, on a British Bill of Rights

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

The 2016 Queen’s Speech and the Constitution

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

Theresa May’s case for withdrawal from the ECHR: Politically astute, legally dubious, constitutionally naïve

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has argued in a speech staking out her position on Brexit that, although she is in favour of the UK’s remaining in the European Union, it should withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The purpose of this post is not to address the arguments for or against withdrawal. Rather, it engages with the quality of the Home Secretary’s underlying arguments. It concludes that however politically savvy May’s position might be, it does not withstand analysis. In particular, it turns upon legally specious distinctions between the EU and ECHR legal regimes, and is … Continue reading Theresa May’s case for withdrawal from the ECHR: Politically astute, legally dubious, constitutionally naïve

A constitutional court for the UK? My letter to The Times

In a leading article published on 3 February 2016, The Times offered its support to the notion of establishing a constitutional court for the UK—an idea floated, if only obliquely, by the Justice Secretary Michael Gove. The attraction of a constitutional court, said The Times, is that it would enable the UK to stand up for national values in the face of any European laws that cut across them: Prime minister’s questions yesterday was never going to be straightforward for David Cameron. He came to parliament accused by his own backbenchers of failing to stand up for Westminster sufficiently robustly in his European … Continue reading A constitutional court for the UK? My letter to The Times

The UK Supreme Court as a constitutional ‘longstop’: Michael Gove’s evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee

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

Philippe Sands’ Elson Lecture: Britain, Europe and Human Rights

I briefly wrote yesterday about John Finnis’ recent lecture on judicial power. Although Finnis examines his topic through a lens that takes in far more than simply questions about human-rights protection, some of his fire is trained upon the European Convention on Human Rights and what it requires, or has been understood to require, courts to do. Indeed, by arguing that it is not wise to require or permit judges to exercise the essentially non-judicial responsibility of overriding or even of condemning legislation for its not being “necessary”, or for its “disproportionality”, relative to open-ended rights and the needs of a … Continue reading Philippe Sands’ Elson Lecture: Britain, Europe and Human Rights

RightsInfo: What are Human Rights?

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?