In line with its 2015 manifesto commitment promise, the Conservative party looks set to repeal the 1998 Human Rights Act.
The manifesto stated that, if re-elected, the party would scrap the Act and introduce a British Bill of Rights in order to “restore common sense to the application of human rights in the UK. The Bill will remain faithful to the basic principles of human rights … but will reverse the mission creep that has meant human rights law being used for more and more purposes, and often with little regard for the rights of wider society”.
The Law Society has made clear its opposition to the proposal on the basis that the Act already fulfils a legitimate role that any bill of rights would duplicate. Following the Conservatives' election victory, Law Society president Andrew Caplen said that: “The Human Rights Act is a fundamental safeguard of many of our basic rights and freedoms. We will be pressing the government to retain it.”
The Society is also concerned that the party’s “Proposals for Changing Britain's Human Rights Laws” may contain inaccuracies or “howlers” as former attorney-general Dominic Grieve, put it. The key objectives of the new Bill set out in the document are as follows:
• Repeal the Human Rights Act
• Put the text of the original Human Rights Convention into primary legislation
• Clarify the Convention rights “to reflect a proper balance between rights and responsibilities”
• Break the link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights
• End the ability of the European Court of Human Rights to force the UK to change the law
• Prevent British laws from being effectively re-written through “interpretation”
• Limit the use of human rights law to the most serious cases
• Limit the reach of human rights cases to the UK
• Amend the Ministerial Code to remove any ambiguity in the current rules about the duty of Ministers to follow the will of Parliament in the UK.
Iain Birrell of Thompsons solicitors commented; these proposals are misguided for many reasons. They betray a fundamental misunderstanding of how these important mechanisms operate and demonstrate the sort of behaviours which these rights exist to modify. Of particular concern though is the idea of limiting rights to only ‘the most serious cases’ as this is little more than saying that you can hold the government to account only if they say so. Remember that when you need to challenge the oppressive use of the Tories’ snooper’s charter but cannot use judicial review as they changed those rules too.
To read the proposals in more detail, go to: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/03_10_14_humanrights.pdf