The Rights Removal Bill is set for publication today amid calls that reforms will weaken our rights and undermine the UK’s commitment to the ECHR. PLP’s Legal Director Ariane Adam explains why these concerns cannot be ignored.

Ariane Adam, Legal Director, Public Law Project said:

“It is disappointing that the Government has taken the decision to publish the Rights Removal Bill today despite calls for pre-legislative scrutiny by several parliamentary committees and over 150 civil society organisations.

“From what we have seen from the Government’s press release, it is pressing ahead with many of the proposals outlined in the consultation which was, to be clear, a deeply flawed piece of work.

“The recommendations made by the Government’s own independent review have largely been ignored. The result is that proposals lack serious evidential basis and if enacted they will make it harder for people to enforce their rights at home, including those the Government says it is keen to protect.

“The change to enforceability of interim measures from the Strasbourg court – orders issued only in exceptional cases where there is an imminent risk of irreparable harm – could violate the UK’s obligations under the ECHR and is not an evidence-based proposal that has had the benefit of scrutiny or consultation. It also sets a dangerous precedent for other countries.

“The plans that we have seen so far will create divergence between our laws and the UK’s legal obligations under the ECHR. A new permission stage will simply leave many with no option but to try and take their claims to Strasbourg. This is an unaffordable and totally impractical option for the vast majority of people. The effect will be arbitrarily to restrict who can enforce their human rights in British courts.  

“If the Government is committed to the ECHR – as it claims to be – these concerns cannot be ignored. The Convention is a legal promise to respect the basic rights and freedoms of people. It is a treaty to protect the rule of law and promote peace, one to which successive British Governments have held themselves to account. By doing so they have shown other nations that it is right to do the same.

“Underlying the Government’s plans is propagation of the idea that a problematic ‘rights culture’ has emerged. Legal aid providers across the country struggle every day to help marginalised people and communities, and the number of people they can help is dwarfed by the number they can’t. They know only too well that the barriers to justice are real and that a rights culture is not. And if a ‘rights culture’ means that people are aware of their rights, the limits to those rights, and that public bodies build rights into their thinking when making decisions, then that is something to which we should aspire.”