In December 2021, the UK Government launched a consultation on reforming and replacing the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights. Liberty has compiled a list of responses from expert organisations to this consultation.
RESPONSES FROM DEVOLVED GOVERNMENTS
The Human Rights Act (“HRA”) is one of the most important and successful pieces of legislation ever passed by the UK Parliament. It has a 20-year track record of delivering justice, including for some of the most vulnerable people in society, and it plays a critically important role in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. The proposals set out in the consultation paper represent a direct, and deeply-concerning, threat to these long-established protections.
The Welsh Government is opposed to the proposal to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 with a “Bill of Rights”. This, and many of the accompanying proposals set out in the UK Government’s consultation document are directly at odds with the Welsh Government’s commitment, reflected in our policy and practice, to strengthen and advance equality and human rights in Wales. It is the view of the Welsh Government that these are not discrete or self-contained proposals, rather, viewed as a whole and in the context of other Bills, it represents a concerted effort to dilute the rights of the people of Wales and the UK.
RESPONSES FROM EXPERT ORGANISATIONS
The supposed ‘case for change’ set out in Chapter 3 of the consultation document is nothing of the sort. It provides a sensationalist and slanted understanding of the operation of human rights in the UK, disregards the positive impact of the HRA, and sets up a division between people who are deserving of human rights and those who are not. The proposals, if passed, would enforce this division. Everybody would lose out were this Bill of Rights to become law, but already-marginalised groups would be more negatively affected than others. It is only the Government and public authorities who stand to gain, at the cost of us all.
We are seriously concerned that plans to repeal or weaken sections 3 and 6, to remove the power of public bodies or the courts to make ‘reading ins’ to legislation to ensure that it is human rights-complaint, will undermine human rights protections for non-religious people, such as humanists.
We are concerned that the UK Government’s proposals will weaken existing human rights protections that everyone is entitled to under the Human Rights Act, making it more difficult for people to enforce their rights. Any proposals that weaken human rights protections in the UK are not a sufficient replacement to the Human Rights Act. The Human Rights Act, in its current form, should not be diluted; any changes to the Human Rights Act must be progressive and enhance the protections that are currently offered, not regressive.
Amnesty International UK therefore opposes the thrust of these proposals in general, and indeed any replacement of the Human Rights Act 1998. We consider that the Act works well, provides a careful compromise between competing interests and an effective human rights protective framework for all – one which encourages good decision taking and law making. We do not consider that any proper evidenced justification has been provided for these proposals, and are further concerned by the misleading way in which many of its questions have been formulated. We hope to see them dropped, and instead for the government to move to a rights-positive, constructive approach to domestic protection laws.
The existing human rights framework has had profound benefits for victims and survivors of human trafficking and modern slavery offences. It has been used by victims of trafficking to ensure that their rights are respected and protected, has spurred the development of the UK’s anti-trafficking and modern slavery framework, and has helped to ensure that victims have a better knowledge of and ability to exercise their rights, among other such benefits.
There is not a single proposal in the 118-page consultation document that seeks to strengthen the rights of children, either in the entitlements that children have or in the mechanisms that can enable them to claim and enjoy their rights. It is shameful that, 30 years after the UK’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, legal proceedings concerned with the suffering of children in care are used in the consultation document to try and bolster the government’s claim that aspects of the Human Rights Act have created a ‘democratic deficit’.
Asylum Support Appeals Group
The proposal is liable to result in applicants having to incur greater costs (in obtaining disclosure, permission and then prevailing at a substantive hearing) and increased delay in order to vindicate their human rights. This will be particularly detrimental to the interests of disadvantaged groups whose access to justice is already impeded by lack of resources, lack of education, lack of access to technology, language barriers, and (as in the case of many of ASAP’s clients) destitution. We assume the Government would agree that the protection of the human rights of all, but particularly of members of such groups should be practical and effective.
BID’s view is that the government’s proposals for reforming the Human Rights Act are incoherent, unnecessary, and would have the consequence of diminishing human rights protection in the UK. The proposed amendments will only increase litigation costs and deter genuine claims, while reducing the accountability of public bodies.
We are concerned by the suggestion in the consultation document that the UK Government has already decided that some qualified Convention rights are more important than others – and that this, in part, is based on a notion of “quintessentially UK rights”. For example, wanting to strengthen Article 10 but weaken Article 8. Designating some rights as intangible from “UK” tradition/culture implies that other rights are imports and foreign and that, in the UK context, it would be acceptable / expected to have less regard for those rights. The commentary on the right to family life, specifically, suggests that this right is often an impediment to various proceedings against convicted offenders, especially deportation proceedings against ‘foreign nationals’. There appears to have been little thought given to how weakening this right will interact with, and possibly undermine, the duty of public authorities to make decisions in the best interests of the child, including through promoting the upbringing of children by their family.
The government’s consultation provides little evidence for the necessity of its proposed reforms. Its approach to the HRA lacks balance, cherry picking case law and distorting the role of the judiciary, while ignoring the great benefits the HRA has had in improving access to justice and rights. It also largely ignores the recommendations of the Independent Human Rights Act Review (‘IHRAR’) in favour of a politicised misrepresentation of how the HRA works.
We note that the Panel of the Independent Human Rights Act Review (IHRAR) did not recommend that the Human Rights Act should be replaced by a Bill of Rights and yet the consultation does not ask for opinions on this most basic of questions. Furthermore the majority of submissions received by the IHRAR were supportive of the Human Rights Act. We also note that the idea of a Bill of Rights was investigated in 2010 by an independent Commission, and that it was concluded that “the UK already has a bill of rights in the shape of the 1998 Human Rights Act.” Very little evidence is given to justify the proposals set out, which a range of experts have described as “incoherent”. We therefore question the very basis for this consultation.
Our submission to this Consultation, which proposes not reforming our HRA but instead replacing it with a modern Bill of Rights, sets out in no uncertain terms that these proposals have no democratic legitimacy, no clear evidence base and would have wide-ranging effects, making it harder for all of us across the UK to access our rights. Far from supporting a culture of respect for human rights in the UK, these proposals (which sit in the context of multiple other pieces of rights-regressing legislation passing through Parliament) are a power-grab by the UK Government – a power-grab disguised as “restoring control”, which would decrease accountability of the state, increase reliance on the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and make it harder for people to access their rights and to access justice when rights are risked.
CEASEFIRE’s view is that any attempt to remove overseas military operations from the application of human rights law, whether by means of an international protocol, domestic legislation, or derogation, poses a severe threat to the rights of civilians. The government also faces formidable obstacles in its proposals for this and is unlikely to achieve its aims.
As a civil society organisation and strategic partner to the Scottish Government, CEMVO Scotland refute any changes or amendments to the Human Rights Act proposed by the UK Government under a ‘New Bill of Rights’.
Responses to some of the specific questions asked in the Consultation Document are set out below. However, in summary CELC strongly opposes the reforms and seeks to express considerable concern about (i) the Consultation process itself, (ii) the specific proposals outlined, (iii) the rationale and evidence-base provided in the Consultation Document for these, and (iv) the impact these would have, if implemented, on society in general and critically on the most vulnerable members of the communities CELC serves.
In summary, we reject the purported basis for this consultation, the suggestion that there is any need to replace the HRA with a new “Bill of Rights” and the proposals altogether. Indeed, in our view, our client group, victims of crime whom the government claim to want to help, will be placed in greater danger, should these proposals go ahead.
Most importantly, at no point in the consultation document is recognition given to the “enormously positive impact” of the HRA, as described by the Parliamentary committee tasked with investigating and examining human rights in the United Kingdom, nor its aim of bringing rights home. Instead, the consultation document focusses exclusively on what is considered not to be working with the HRA. It signals out particular groups as misusing the HRA and bringing HRA claims despite their own “flagrant disregard for the rights of others,” namely serious criminals, foreign national offenders and illegal migrants. Not only is this view of human rights as conditional rather than inalienable incorrect, we note that such a focus means that no recognition is given to the essential role that the HRA has played in protecting the rights of those who generally find themselves in positions of limited power through no fault of their own e.g. children, disabled people and victims of domestic violence.
Under Chapter 3 of these proposals, the cited criticisms of the Human Rights Act are that there has been a growth of rights culture, which has created legal uncertainty and that the expansion of rights presents a risk to public protection. As Commissioners whose legislative remits are firmly and proudly grounded in children’s international human rights, we cannot disagree more strongly with any proposals that seek to minimise the important growth in awareness, understanding and appreciation of others’ human rights. Moreover, our statutory purposes place us in diametric opposition with the UK Government’s proposals in this regard.
Children’s Law Centre rejects in their entirety the proposals to reform the Human Rights Act. No meaningful case for change is presented by government in the consultation documentation. Many of the proposals are vague and unclear, more again are framed in the language of division and diminution of existing rights. As such, we do not believe they would constitute ‘human rights law’.
We wish to make it clear that we object to the proposals in this consultation and the proposed Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA), which in our view would greatly reduce the protections currently in place. It is our view that the underlying tone and content of this consultation misrepresents the positive impact of the HRA to wider society and the important role it has in ensuring accountability from public authorities. It is a further attempt to reduce access to justice and to interfere with the separation of powers, which does not have the support of civil society in Northern Ireland
ALBA is concerned that the consultation paper fails to identify a sufficient evidence- based justification for many of the proposals, and is in parts based on an outdated and partial understanding of the current state of the caselaw. ALBA is also concerned about the general approach to the protection of rights that the proposals appear to envisage.
To give examples of some of our clients who have benefitted from the operation of the HRA: families whose relatives have died in police custody or prison and who used the HRA to ensure that the inquest considered the wider circumstances of their relative’s death (and were vindicated by those findings); survivors of the Hillsborough and Grenfell Tower tragedies; survivors of torture and human rights defenders detained in fast-track immigration detention; trafficking victims who have been overlooked by the public authorities responsible for helping them; members of the Windrush generation denied immigration status in the UK; a victim of unlawful rendition, detained by British forces; people wrongfully refused emergency lifesaving healthcare treatment; families who were destitute and homeless; disabled people in wholly unsuitable accommodation; Afghan interpreters incorrectly refused protection in the UK; and others.
The protection of human rights online is fundamental to the protection of human rights more broadly, and vice versa. Too often, ‘digital regulation’ globally is used as an excuse to curb digital rights and freedoms: in recent days we have seen the alarming consequences of governments being able to weaponise internet and information regulation to suppress political dissent. For the UK to credibly position itself as a world-leader in how to achieve liberal democratic digital regulation, it needs an online safety regime that is firmly rooted in strong human rights legislation. We do not agree that the Government’s proposals for a new Bill of Rights will provide this strong framework.
Together with proposed changes in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill the potential loss of the HRA makes disabled people fear that their lives will become untenable and that the grave and systematic violations of our rights identified by the UN Disability Committee following their unprecedented inquiry into the UK will become even worse than now.
Discrimination Law Association
The DLA has considered and strongly opposes this package of proposals for an amended HRA or a new British Bill of Rights on the ground that taken together they will impede the UK government’s ability to comply with its primary Article 1 ECHR duty. Moreover, on its own, the UK is not able to rewrite the ECHR, which is now binding on 47 Council of Europe Member States, to suit its parochial concerns.
We conclude that no reforms to the HRA are required, and we share our concerns for some of the MoJ’s proposals.
In ELA’s view, the HRA is working as it should in a modern democratic society. By its nature, that society is complex and evolving, and good governance requires balancing multiple competing interests. The HRA, and the public bodies and courts acting under it, are well attuned to doing so. The Government’s stated aims of the Consultation, for example to ensure the HRA commands public confidence and engenders legal certainty, are, in our view already being met by the robust application of the HRA by judges and public authorities.
Overall, the Commission is not persuaded that the Government has demonstrated a need for reform of the 1998 Human Rights Act. The Commission is of the view that, in general terms, current government proposals are vague and their specific outworkings in practice are unclear.
Our long-established position is that there should be no weakening of the protections provided by the Human Rights Act (HRA), and no reduction in access to justice if people’s human rights are breached.
The Human Rights Act is an essential tool that empowers ordinary people to challenge governments and other public bodies when they make unlawful or harmful decisions, and hold them to account. This is at the heart of our democracy. Our starting point in response to the government’s consultation is that the Human Rights Act is working effectively and there is no evidenced-based case to replace it.
We strongly support the Human Rights Act which has meant that fundamental human rights agreed by the UK through conventions at the UN and European levels can be asserted through UK courts. We agree with the independent review that the Act is basically working well and needs no significant amendment.
As HBF we are appalled that the government is seeking to introduce a Bill of Rights that would significantly reduce the protections afforded to certain groups, including refugees and survivors of trafficking. The government’s proposals will not only harm the most marginalised but will undermine the human rights protections available to us all.
We set out below our views on the specific questions raised in the Consultation Paper. HSF also responded to the Government’s Call for Evidence on this topic and the questions raised in the associated Terms of Reference. As will be apparent from that response and this response, we consider that the current regime generally functions well and does not need to be subject to any major reform. We are also concerned that some of the proposed reforms may have unintended negative consequences. For example, we think it likely that restrictions on the courts’ interpretative powers will result in their decisions unhelpfully diverging from those made by the European Court of Human Rights (the “ECtHR”), whereas case law under the current regime has generally remained consistent with ECtHR jurisprudence. Such a trajectory would be problematic, not least because of the heightened likelihood of litigants bringing cases in the ECtHR and therefore of adverse ECtHR decisions against the UK. We elaborate further on this point in relation to specific questions below.
Simply put, we consider the wholesale changes to the UK’s human rights framework proposed in the Consultation to be unnecessary, dangerous, and highly concerning. A great many of the proposed changes are redundant as the purported problems they seek to address are largely unfounded. They ignore the fact that the Human Rights Act 1998 is an effective and considered piece of legislation which has effectively upheld the rights of everyone (including the most vulnerable in our society) and held the State to account when it does wrong. The Act has done this while navigating complex constitutional waters. Contrary to the repeated and baseless assertions in the Consultation, it has done so whilst defending Parliamentary Sovereignty and the Separation of Powers.
We do not believe that this safeguards the current protections everyone in the UK has and the reforms will reduce the legal responsibilities the Government currently has towards us. The reform proposals set out in the Government’s consultation paper would diminish accountability mechanisms under the Act leaving people like myself (and those I
care about / support) with little to no access to justice should my rights be risked or
The government’s proposals threaten to remove the rights of people who have been in trouble with the law, reinforce poor treatment of racially minoritised people and victims of abuse and exploitation, and weaken safeguards against rights abuses in private prisons. These changes would make it harder for people to turn their lives around after contact with the criminal justice system and would erode, not strengthen, the rule of law. They must be rethought.
Overall, we do not support the replacement of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) with a Bill of Rights. This conclusion is based on our academic expertise, and on our collective experience working with practitioners, policy makers and the third sector. Our engagement with the specific consultation questions should not, therefore, be taken as an endorsement of a Bill of Rights that substantively alters the existing framework for human rights protection in the UK.
We believe that this consultation exercise is unwarranted and any change to the Human Rights Act is unnecessary. We encourage the Government to abandon its plans to reform the HRA and instead direct its attention towards promoting the understanding and utilisation of existing rights protections and fulfilling its duties to deliver additional protections such as the undelivered Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.
Consortium member organisations work with some of the most marginalised people in Scotland, made very vulnerable by circumstances that are often outwith their control. Often their sense of agency and dignity are in tatters. They are often in minority groups whose particular interests would not show up in manifestos or be major issues at the ballot box – indeed, sometimes their interests are those which become political footballs. The HRA is vital as a tool for them as individuals to ensure that the implications for their human rights of any law or policy are taken into account.
Human Rights Watch considers the Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ) consultation on ‘reform’ to the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) to be a misguided, misleading exercise. The United Kingdom (UK) Government has failed to show that there is a pressing need to make changes to the Human Rights Act. If enacted, the proposed changes would have a widespread, negative impact on people in the UK who depend on the HRA to ensure their rights are protected.
We believe that the Government should focus its energies on protecting existing rights within the HRA, furthering the culture of respect for human rights, and educating the public to ensure there is understanding and ownership of these rights. For example, Article 8 is not only an important right in our sphere of the law, but it is also an important right for every British citizen in ensuring that public bodies and others respect their privacy. British citizens would be impacted if these consultation proposals became law, but these proposals would affect to a greater degree certain targeted groups of vulnerable individuals, who our members represent, and their British children and partners.
Obligations under Article 2 have had an overwhelmingly positive impact: we are all protected by the systems that are in place because of the right to life as codified in the Convention and construed by the courts. From hospital policies to public safety regulations, we enjoy protections in many areas of our lives because of the HRA legal framework. By setting out a range of positive obligations on the State when it is arguable that the State does or may bear some responsibility for a death, it has transformed and improved our framework for investigations and strengthened the coronial process to give bereaved families a right to effectively participate in investigations and inquests.
Taken as a whole, the proposals in the consultation would serve to systematically weaken human rights protections in the British justice system. They would weaken access to justice, reduce the accountability of public bodies and put the UK’s reputation at risk for breaching its obligations under international law, despite the stated intention to respect these responsibilities.
Human rights are like branches of a tree that protect us and they are removing these trees one by one and there is nothing left for us.
…we believe that there is no case for a weakening of enforcement mechanisms in the Human Rights Act. The current consultation has in no way altered our position. We believe that the Human Rights Act is an important pillar of the UK constitution and we must ‘Keep the Act Intact’.
Just for Kids Law, the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, and supporting organisations, are extremely concerned about the proposals set out in this consultation. We believe they will significantly weaken respect for children’s human rights and the ability of children to hold the UK Government and public bodies to account where rights have been infringed. We work with some of the most vulnerable children in society and it is crucial that their rights in the Human Rights Act (HRA) are not diluted in any way. Given the impact the proposals will have on children, we urge the Government to carry out a child rights impact assessment (CRIA).
The HRA is a well-crafted, delicately balanced piece of legislation. It enables the courts to give effect to and protect the rights of individuals whilst at the same time maintaining Parliamentary sovereignty and the balance between the different branches of Government. We do not believe the case for radical reform of the HRA as set out in the Consultation has been made out and in our view many of the proposals will have a significant detrimental impact on rights protection, legal certainty and the cost and length of litigation for all parties.
Major constitutional reform should be underpinned by a well-structured consultation process. We welcome the fact that the Government is consulting on its proposals to change the HRA, however, we are concerned that the difference between the scope of the Independent Review and this consultation combined with the lack of a formal response to the Review, may make it harder to achieve the level of consensus which is desirable when making constitutional reforms
Based on the proposals contained in this consultation, we believe that replacing the HRA with a new Bill of Rights would fundamentally reduce everyone’s access to their human rights, and this would particularly impact people who are most at risk of rights breaches. This includes people who we at JustRight Scotland represent daily: survivors of gender-based violence; migrants, refugees and asylum seekers; care experienced children and young people; survivors of trafficking and exploitation; disabled people and all those with protected characteristics. As human rights exist to guarantee a basic standard of living for all, we strongly oppose the changes proposed in this consultation.
Law Centres Network
In line with the context and approach of Law Centres’ work set out above, we remain gravely concerned about the proposals in this consultation. Our greatest concern is that the proposals would reduce access to justice, especially for disadvantaged people, thereby weakening effective human rights protections and remedies for them. In turn, this would further shield public bodies from accountability, weakening the rule of law, public trust and ultimately social cohesion. We strongly urge the government to pause and reconsider its approach before it damages vital protections for the most vulnerable in society.
The Human Rights Act (HRA) is a legal instrument of great constitutional importance. It confirms the rights and freedoms owed to all people in the UK and provides robust protection for these, allowing individuals to access their rights at home in domestic courts. We do not believe there is a case for the sweeping reforms proposed and are concerned they omit recognising the very significant benefits for access to justice and the rule of law that have been achieved for British society through the HRA.
We urge the Government to pay proper regard to these submissions, reflect on its ill-conceived proposals and abandon these plans which will undermine, not strengthen, the values of fairness, justice and equality which underpin our society.
At the outset, I would like to draw attention to, and challenge, some of the presumptions underpinning the consultation: that human rights are tools of political interference; that judges are activist and anti-democratic; that human rights have been unduly expanded and have generally ‘gone too far’. The Independent Human Rights Act Review, which preceded the consultation exercise, painted a very different picture, and one which the government has clearly not accepted.
We, as a LGBTQIA sector, are gravely concerned that a Bill of Rights will create huge difficulties in accessing our rights and our ability to seek justice. For example, (i) the undermining of privacy rights stands to affect LGBT+ people who have relied upon these rights to resist being outed… (ii) LGBTQIA, as a population of civil society that already experiences barriers to accessing justice, are likely to be further ostracised from asserting their rights as a result of further permission stages. Further barriers will only act to entrench problems that already exist. (iii) The removal of positive obligations could have a catastrophic impact on LGBTQIA people who often rely on them when accessing public services. (iv) Section 3 of the HRA has been vital in the protection of rights for people with protected characteristics, for example relating to sexual orientation… and (v) the undermining of Article 8 in particular could deprive many people with protected characteristics of necessary protections, including relating to gender reassignment.
We do not intend to answer every question. Much of the consultation is predicated on political positions. It is not appropriate for the LLS to engage in putting forward a political position which could never properly reflect all members’ views. Our approach is to seek to respond from the practitioner’s viewpoint. We will give examples, where appropriate, as to how the Human Rights Act (“HRA”) has provided real benefits to a wide range of individuals thus enhancing the quality of their lives.
…it is shocking and shameful that a government would include in a consultation a question that asks the public to help provide it with the rationale for abandoning such fundamental and internationally respected agreements such as the Refugee Convention and the principle of non-refoulement.
Rather than introducing a new Bill of Rights, we note that the first recommendation of the IHRAR Panel is the development of an effective programme of civic and constitutional education in schools, universities and adult education, with a particular focus on questions about human rights, the balance to be struck between such rights and individual responsibilities. The Consultation is silent on such a proposal. However, it is this Firm’s strong view that, rather than replacing the HRA with a Bill of Rights, more needs to be done to address public perception of the HRA and the way in which it operates, including in relation to the separation of powers.
We believe that the Human Rights Act should not be replaced with the proposed Bill of Rights. It has played a profoundly important role in advancing and protecting the rights of people living with HIV. Indeed, the legal framework of human rights has proved vital in a range of settings where the actions of public authorities have infringed the rights of people living with HIV. The stigma that has dogged HIV since the first AIDS cases were reported forty years ago has not gone away. The Human Rights Act has proved critical in holding public authorities to account where misinformation, misunderstanding, prejudice, or racism have threatened the rights of people living with HIV. Diluting the human rights framework at this stage will leave people less able to challenge poor treatment by public authorities on the basis of their HIV status, and will directly impede the government’s ability to stand by its own commitment to end all new HIV transmissions by 2030.
The Commission believes that these proposed changes are unnecessary and potentially divisive. Human rights protection needs to be strengthened, not diluted in any way. Our written response highlights a number of serious concerns, not least the lack of consideration given to the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland. The consultation document does not reflect the complexity of devolution or the views of people living in Northern Ireland. In particular, the failure to acknowledge the enhanced status of the Human Rights Act, because of its relevance to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, is concerning.
The inevitable effect of the Government’s stated positions, set out repeatedly through this consultation exercise, would be to reduce the rights of individuals, to increase the power of the state to interfere with those rights, and to reduce judicial supervision of that interference.
Fundamentally, the problems with The Human Rights Act that this consultation claims it wants to rectify simply do not exist. In spite of the recommendations provided by the IHRAR panel (based on months of deliberations, over 150 consultation responses and multiple roadshow events), the government appears to have ignored them. Instead, they seem determined to fit a square ‘reform and rewrite’ peg into the round hole of reality.
We are extremely concerned that the proposals in this consultation will severely limit the ability of people in prison to seek redress when their human rights have been violated. Indeed, many of the proposals in the consultation seem to have been devised with this explicit intention in mind.
In general, this is a consultation which addresses ex-trends, fails to consider current problems, sidelines the proposals of an expert commission, fails to put forward satisfactory evidence, systemically weakens domestic remedies for human rights protection, undermines access to justice, weakens the accountability of public bodies, weakens the position of British judges vis-a-vis the Strasbourg Court, fails to put forward a coherent policy on human rights, and puts the UK’s international reputation at risk for failing to comply with international law obligations. The government has failed on any serious measure to make an effective case for its proposals.
A core belief of Quaker faith is that there is ‘that of God’ in everyone. We believe that every human being is a child of God and deserves dignity and compassion, regardless of what they have done or where they are from. This principle of universality is not just a Quaker belief. It also underpins all human rights laws, including our Human Rights Act (HRA). Human rights laws are based on the idea that every person has the same human rights – because they are human. The rights in the HRA make this clear; each one starts with the word “everyone”.
We have sought to identify whether there are any structural or institutional problems with the current HRA that would echo the scepticism (not to say, apparent hostility) manifest in the consultation paper towards the Act such as to justify the widespread changes that would flow from acceptance of the proposals explored in the consultation paper. We do not consider there are such problems in the UK as a whole, or in Northern Ireland specifically.
Human rights are an integral part of the faith and tradition of Judaism. Freedom of thought, belief and religion are key to the life of the Jewish community. Looking through the lens of Jewish religion, history, and values, we do not agree with the premise of this consultation. The Human Rights Act does not need replacing with a Bill of Rights. Indeed, the Human Rights Act is a Bill of Rights.
The proposals outlined in the consultation document, and our responses to the questions, should be seen in light of this broader context. When looking at the current legislative landscape – including other pending legislation – the proposals can only be seen as diminishing, as opposed to augmenting, the nature and degree of human rights protection seen throughout the UK. This will detriment everyone in the UK, but will have particularly stark consequences for already vulnerable or marginalised groups.
We are profoundly concerned that the proposed Bill of Rights will dilute the protections for Black and ethnic minority individuals and groups, and create new barriers denying them effective means to enforce those protections. The UK’s reputation as a champion of equality and human rights would dwindle as a result of the introduction of the proposed Bill.
At Safe Passage, we find that this proposed Bill of Rights would be deeply harmful in its impact. It is also unnecessary as the Human Rights Act already functions well in protecting rights and does not need replacing. We are deeply concerned that the proposed Bill would have a disproportionate effect on certain groups including those seeking asylum in the UK. We are particularly concerned that the Government has raised human rights obligations as an “impediment” in their approach to migration and asylum policy. We strongly recommend that the Government retains the Human Rights Act and does not proceed with their proposed Bill of Rights.
We are concerned that the UK Government’s proposals will restrict the rights of some people in our society, essentially giving them the power to decide who is “worthy” of human rights protection and who is not. These changes include reducing the scope of some non-absolute rights for “certain categories of individuals” and allowing the courts to consider an individual’s conduct when making decisions about their human rights case and whether they should be awarded damages.
It is important to state from the outset that SCLD does not support any of the rationale or proposals in this consultation document. We believe that the recommendations contained in the consultation are a regressive approach to human rights, which is, at best, based on a lack of robust evidence and, at worst, rooted in prejudiced ideologies and discrimination. We see no benefit to people with learning disabilities and the progressive realisation of human rights in the proposals outlined in this consultation
The UK Government’s plan to replace the Human Rights Act (“HRA”) with a new Bill of Rights signals an intent to water down human rights protections, erect additional barriers to accessing justice, and equivocate on compliance with decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”). It is a project based on false premises, employs a flawed consultation process and will deliver primarily negative outcomes for the people and institutions of the UK. If passed, these proposals would undermine 20 years of human rights law and policy development across the UK, making it harder for people to enforce their rights, and putting the UK in breach of its international law obligations. The Commission is strongly opposed to these regressive proposals
HRA 1998 brought rights home. The Government’s proposals will go back to the old regime and force claimants to take their cases to Strasbourg. The European Convention, the 1998 Act, and the Strasbourg and domestic jurisprudence, constitute together an accessible and balanced modern Bill of Rights that is threatened by a Government that lacks respect for those Rights.
Acts of violence against women and girls are violations of human rights, and as an organisation working on tackling violence against women and girls, Solace supports the Human Rights Act wholeheartedly and rejects the need for its reform. The Human Rights Act is an essential piece of legislation that helps to ensure justice for women and children experiencing violence and provides a mechanism to hold institutions accountable when they fail to keep women and children safe. The Human Rights Act has been instrumental in bringing cases against individual police forces when they have failed in domestic violence murder cases, rape and trafficking cases, requiring them to change the way they work in response to VAWG.
Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights)
We note the framing of the consultation questions is narrow and offers limited scope to rebut the presumptions on which they are based. The consultation is also narrowly focused on the HRA’s application by the courts. Whilst important, court challenges are only one way in which the HRA protects people’s rights, including the rights of children. The Act is also a powerful tool for advocacy, planning, developing rights-respecting services and calling for change. We are concerned that the consultation paper is an expression of the negative rhetoric against the HRA, rather than a meaningful opportunity to discuss the Act’s many benefits.
UNISON is clear that the principles within the HRA are being applied consistently, and that producing limiting legislation will severely restrict its proper functioning. UNISON expresses its full support for the ECHR and for the provisions of the HRA and for UK judges making those decisions under those provisions. UNISON holds that in a fully functioning democracy, Governments of every hue should not be afraid of their decisions being challenged within a judicial system that has the jurisdiction to ensure compliance with the principles contained within the HRA. UNISON is clear that the judiciary must, when asked, determine the lawfulness of policy decisions, and that this is within the role of the judiciary.
We reject the proposal to repeal the Human Rights Act (HRA), and strongly dispute that the consultation document has set out a case for doing so. The document is based on a highly selective and negative presentation of the impact of the HRA, and in particular rests on the demonisation of particular categories of individuals, such as certain migrants, prisoners, or ‘gang members,’ as outside society and not deserving of rights protections. When taken together, we believe the government’s proposals for reform as set out in this document would fatally undermine the protection of rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in domestic law, undoing the important progress since the HRA became law and leaving many in the UK’s jurisdiction with no option than to bring claims to the European Court of Human Rights (EctHR) to vindicate their rights. This will wind the constitutional clock back to the 1990s.
Taken together, the net result of the proposed changes is arguably to turn back the clock to the position ex ante the 1998 Act, since the proposals (if implemented) are liable to render whole areas of decision making by public authorities all but immune to effective challenge in the UK courts and create such significant constraints on remedies as to make recourse to the Strasbourg court highly likely, which it was the purpose of the 1998 Act to remove the need for. LINK reminds MOJ that we do not have the luxury of time to tackle the climate and nature crises.
The Human Rights Act is essential in protecting the rights of survivors of domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) in the UK. These crimes are a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women1 and are deeply rooted in societal inequality between men and women. The Human Rights Act is a critically important means for addressing this inequality and the injustice that impacts women and children experiencing domestic abuse and other forms of VAWG.
The WPG considers this consultation to be a failed opportunity to extend and improve the HRA and disagrees with any attempts to erode or reduce the human rights of UK citizens by removing important rights and duties contained in the HRA. The WPG stands in solidarity with civil society across the four nations of the UK who are calling for the Human Rights Act to be upheld in its current form and not be diminished in any way.
In our view, there is no evidence to suggest that the changes envisaged within this consultation are either necessary or desirable. As such, YLAL’s position is that updating or replacing the HRA should not be a priority for the Government. Instead, the Government should focus resources on addressing the crisis in the justice system which has arisen from sustained underfunding by successive Governments.