Justice Secretary confirms intent to scrap the Human Rights Act

Date: 6th September 2016
Category: Other human rights treaties and mechanisms

The new Justice Secretary Liz Truss has confirmed that the UK government will continue with plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights.

This renewal of intent comes despite recent news articles reporting that the Human Rights Act would not be scrapped.

Truss would not commit, however, to any timescale for publication of the bill. Rights Info have reported:

When asked by BBC Radio 4 Today's presenter Nick Robinson about rumours that the project would be scrapped post-Brexit Referendum, Truss responded that there would 'absolutely' be a British Bill of Rights, and that this is a manifesto commitment.

More recently, Liz Truss appeared on Justice Questions on the 6th September, at which she was asked about the Government's plans for a British Bill of Rights by Dominic Raab, Former Minister of State for Justice with responsibility for human rights.

Key points from the Justice Secretary's response to the primary and follow-up questions as reported by the British Institute of Human Rights are:

  • The Government are committed to scrapping the Human Rights Act and introducing a British Bill of Rights.
  • (On timing of the consultation) This is an important reform; we need to get it right. We will be introducing proposals in due course. We will deliver on this manifesto commitment.
  • (On which rights should be removed) We will be putting out our proposals in due course, which will discuss these issues in detail, but one of the important points is that we want the ultimate arbiter of those rights to be the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
  • Agreed with the suggestion that the 'European Court' does not respect the reservations and qualifications to rights that are included in the 'code of rights [sic]' , and that was the reason the Government wanted to pursue a British Bill of Rights to put that in place.
  • (On leaving the European Convention on Human Rights) The Prime Minister has been very clear that leaving the European Convention on Human Rights is not something that we are going to pursue.
  • Made several references to human rights not being invented in 1998, but go back to the Magna Carta, and the British Bill of Rights is the next step in enshrining human rights in our laws.
  • The whole purpose of the Bill of Rights is to enhance human rights in this country. We have led the world in human rights since Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights that was published in Wales in 1689, and we will continue to do so.
  • The debate is now available on Hansard here.

The British Institute of Human Rights have noted that these responses are similar to those given in recent times, with a focus on "domesticating" human rights, away from international accountability. Ultimately, it is clear that proposals around scrapping the Human Rights Act have not been abandoned.