With the government’s proposed Bill of Rights threatening to weaken the protection of human rights domestically, we urge Parliamentarians to be alert to the significant risks it presents.

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PLP opposes the Government’s Bill of Rights: it extinguishes our most effective mechanisms for enforcing rights, and is regressive in its substance and faulty in its drafting.

Our briefing examines five key areas of particular concern with the Bill:

  1. Weakening the protection of human rights domestically, including by repealing the obligation on judges to interpret laws to be compatible with human rights;
  2. Empowering the executive and undermining accountability, including by allowing ministers to pick and choose which previous human rights judgments to preserve and requiring judges to presume that a minister’s decision in some deportation cases is correct;
  3. Imposing unnecessary and costly procedural burdens, particularly through imposing a new “human rights permission stage” requiring individuals to prove that they have suffered “significant disadvantage” before bringing a claim to court;
  4. Violating the UK’s international human rights obligations, by compelling British judges to ignore interim measures from the European Court of Human Rights; and
  5. Discriminating in the protection of human rights, by weakening the universal and equal protection of human rights, particularly for prisoners and foreign national offenders.

Given the constitutional significance of the Human Rights Act (HRA), which the Bill of Rights seeks to replace, we would expect a reform programme to adhere to three core principles:

  • Caution and moderation, going only as far as necessary to resolve problems.
  • A reliable evidence-base demonstrating that those problems in fact exist.
  • Maximum opportunities for scrutiny by parliamentarians, whose constituents’ rights will be weakened by this Bill.

The government has adhered to none of these.

There is little caution in this Bill: it uses contested or non-existent evidence; makes no serious attempt to address concerns raised in consultation submissions; and rejects many cross-party calls for pre-legislative scrutiny.

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