Closed petition Do not reform the Human Rights Act
The proposed Human Rights Act reforms must be withdrawn. The Government must not make any changes to the Human Rights Act, especially ones that dilute people's human rights in any circumstances, make the Government less accountable, or reduce people's ability to make human rights claims.
The Human Rights Act as it exists currently protects all of us. We lose it at our peril. It is an essential law that allows us to challenge public authorities when they get it wrong and has helped secure justice on issues from the right to life to the right to free speech.
The Human Rights Act has changed many lives for the better. It must be protected, and not subject to reforms that reduce its scope and limit when people can rely on it.
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This response was given on 17 March 2022
This Government was elected with a manifesto commitment to update the Human Rights Act. We have published a consultation on our proposals, which closes on 8 March 2022.
Read the response in full
This Government was elected with a manifesto commitment to “update the Human Rights Act [...] to ensure that there is a proper balance between the rights of individuals, our vital national security and effective government.”
The Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) has been in force for over 20 years and it is entirely right that we should seek to update it and make sure that our human rights framework continues to meet the needs of the society it serves. We have therefore consulted on proposals to revise and replace the HRA with a modern Bill of Rights.
We have a long, proud and diverse history of freedoms in this country and our proposals build on this tradition. Our proposals for a Bill of Rights ensure that we continue to recognise the rights protected under the European Convention on Human Rights, and that individuals will still be able to enforce their rights in domestic courts.
Our proposals will make sure a proper balance is struck between individuals’ rights, personal responsibility, and the wider public interest. They include strengthening freedom of expression and adding a recognition of the right to a jury trial – giving greater prominence to home-grown UK rights.
Our proposals also look to prevent the misuse of human rights that has led to them being cited by criminals, with little regard for the rights of wider society. Our proposals would ensure that rights cannot be used to frustrate the deportation of serious criminals and terrorists.
Finally, we are seeking to empower our courts to apply human rights in a UK context by reinforcing the primacy of UK case law. We also want to ensure that the will of our elected representatives in Parliament is respected.
If you would like to find out more about this consultation and the Government’s current activities in this area, you can do so at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/human-rights-act-reform-a-modern-bill-of-rights. The consultation closed on 8 March 2022. Those who would be assisted by an Easy Read or audio version in order to respond can request an extension until 19 April.
The Government has also published the report from the Independent Human Rights Act Review panel, which examined the framework of the HRA, how it is operating in practice and whether any change is required. Further information on this and the report can be viewed at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/independent-human-rights-act-review.
Ministry of Justice
Other parliamentary business
Report on Human Rights Act reform published by Parliamentary committee
The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has published a report into the Government’s plans to reform the Human Rights Act. The report criticises the Government's proposals to replace the protections offered by the Act with a ‘British’ Bill of Rights, suggesting that this could cause confusion and weaken human rights protections.
Read a summary of the Committee's report: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt5802/jtselect/jtrights/1033/summary.html
Read the full report: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/9597/documents/162420/default/
About the report
The Government launched a consultation on its proposals to revise the Human Rights Act in December. You can read more about the consultation, including the Government's proposals, here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/human-rights-act-reform-a-modern-bill-of-rights
The JCHR's report concludes that the case has not been made for replacing the Act with a British Bill of Rights in the way the Government has proposed. The report also raises concerns that the reforms may negatively impact individuals' ability to enforce their rights in the UK, and that - by giving higher priority to the right to freedom of expression - they may undermine the principle that all rights are equal and fundamental.
Read more about the report, including a comment from Harriet Harman MP, Chair of the Committee: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/6404/human-rights-act-reform/news/165379/human-rights-act-reforms-would-weaken-human-rights-protections-in-the-uk/
The Government is now expected to respond to the Committee's report, which was published on 13 April, within two months. The Committee will publish the Government’s response here: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/6404/human-rights-act-reform/publications/reports-responses/
What is the Joint Committee on Human Rights?
The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) is a cross-party group made up of members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. It examines matters relating to human rights within the United Kingdom.
Get updates on their work by following the Committee on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HumanRightsCtte
Get involved in the work of the UK Parliament
You can sign up to the Your UK Parliament newsletter for the latest information on how to get involved and make a difference: https://learning.parliament.uk/en/your-uk-parliament-newsletter-sign-up-form/
Reforms to human rights laws announced by Government
The Government has announced plans to reform human rights laws in the UK, by replacing the Human Rights Act with a new Bill of Rights. This new legislation was introduced to Parliament on Wednesday 22 June.
The Government says its proposals will reinforce the UK's tradition of liberty, and will ensure the UK's human rights framework meets the needs of society. Read more about the Government's plans in its press release: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/bill-of-rights-to-strengthen-freedom-of-speech-and-curb-bogus-human-rights-claims
The Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab MP, made a statement to the House of Commons, explaining the Government's proposals. As part of this, he was questioned by MPs.
Read a transcript of the statement: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-06-22/debates/5736CBBA-A5F0-45B9-AA54-246FF57FB5EE/BillOfRights
The Secretary of State has also made a separate written statement setting out more information about the Government's proposals, which you can read here: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2022-06-22/hcws129
The Government's proposals
The Government plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a new Bill of Rights, which it has said will enhance the UK's tradition of freedom under the rule of law and strengthen the UK's human rights framework.
The Government says its proposed changes will, among other things:
- Strengthen the right to freedom of speech
- Clarify how certain human rights are interpreted and applied, in particular the right to respect for private and family life in the context of deportation of foreign criminals
- Strengthen the primacy of UK law and clarify the UK Supreme Court's role as the ultimate judicial decision-maker on human rights issues
The Government has also published its response to the consultation it ran on updating and replacing the Human Rights Act, which closed earlier this year. You can read the consultation paper, and the Government's response, here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/human-rights-act-reform-a-modern-bill-of-rights
The Government plans to implement its proposals through the Bill of Rights Bill, a proposed new set of laws which was published and introduced in the House of Commons on Wednesday 22 June. This is the first stage of a Bill's passage through the House of Commons and takes place without debate.
The Bill now has to go through other stages in Parliament before it becomes law. A date for the Bill's Second Reading, when MPs will have the opportunity to debate the general principles of the Bill, will be announced in due course.
You can read the Bill and find out about its progress here: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3227
You can find out more about how a Bill becomes law here: https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/laws/passage-bill/