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20 April 2022

Comment: government proposals to replace the Human Rights Act

2 mins

The government’s proposals to replace the Human Rights Act with a British bill of rights have been met with backlash from MPs and peers, who have stated that the new British bill will diminish protections for individuals. Alex Temple, solicitor in our Public Law and Human Rights team, comments:

Every day the Human Rights Act protects our most fundamental rights and freedoms. It is used by people from all walks of life who find themselves in moments of unexpected crisis, from disabled children whose rights to an education are threatened because they have not been provided with a school place, to families seeking to enforce the right to life for a loved one being refused medical treatment.

This is why human rights are, by definition, universal. If we allow the government to pick and choose who is protected, and who isn’t, then anyone can be vulnerable to abusive exercise of power. It must be the case that everyone is protected, or else no one truly is.

This is why the government’s proposed reforms to the Human Rights Act are so dangerous. They set a precedent that says that some people are more deserving than others of protection under the law. The government’s plans will also insulate decision-makers from the scrutiny of the courts, so that even when a person can prove that their human rights have been violated, it will be more difficult or impossible to hold public services to account.

Now, more than ever, as we recover from a global health catastrophe, face harrowing conflict in Europe, and a rapidly accelerating cost of living crisis, the UK should be standing in support of every person’s inherent rights. Instead, the government is forging ahead with undermining one of the most successful pieces of rights-based laws ever enacted. Last week’s report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights is therefore timely and welcome. The Committee is absolutely right to highlight that the government’s approach is not evidence-based. Instead, it appears to be a power-grab and will come at the expense of ordinary people being able to realise their most fundamental rights.

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