Bill of Rights Bill Second Reading

JUSTICE has briefed MPs ahead of the proposed Bill of Rights Bill Second Reading on Monday 12 September 2022.

On 7 September, media reports have suggested that the Second Reading has been postponed and that the Government is re-thinking the legislation. This pause is a very welcome development given our serious concerns about the legislation.

However, for the following reasons, we would urge the Government to permanently scrap the proposals in this Bill:

  1. There is no evidential basis for the Bill and there has been a regrettable lack of scrutiny for such an important constitutional change. The 2019 Conservative manifesto did not pledge to repeal the Human Rights Act and the legislation was denied pre-legislative scrutiny, as would be expected for a bill of such constitutional significance.
  2. The Bill would significantly reduce domestic human rights protections. The Bill seeks to reduce the role of domestic courts to enforce rights, would restrict the legal requirements of public authorities to act positively to protect rights  and undermines the universality of human rights applying to everyone.
  3. The Bill concentrates power in the executive and reduces the accountability of Government. The legislation would give the Secretary of State unprecedented Henry VIII powers to change legislation and shield the state from accountability for breaches of human rights.
  4. The Bill will cause years of completely unnecessary legal uncertainty and chaos. The Bill would  lead to years of re-litigating settled domestic lawcreating unnecessary confusion for public authorities and members of the public.
  5. The Bill risks de-stabilising the UK’s devolved settlement and undermining the Good Friday Agreement. The ECHR is embedded in devolved settlements and would have reduced the devolved legislature’s ability to protect human rights within areas of devolved competence. The Good Friday Agreement also requires ‘complete incorporation’ of the ECHR into UK law and the Bill threatens this by significantly reducing domestic ECHR protections. 
  6. It places the UK in breach of our international legal obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and therefore threatens our international reputation as a country that upholds the rule of law. The UK has a proud history of compliance with the ECHR and plays a leading role in the Council of Europe. This Bill risked undermining this reputation.

JUSTICE will continue to work on a cross-party basis to make the case for the Human Rights Act and to oppose the divisive provisions within the Bill of Rights Bill.

JUSTICE is proud to be part of the Save Our Human Rights Act coalition and signed our name to a short joint briefing with 123 charities and campaigning organisations.

Read our briefing here.