Human rights are a hotly debated issue in the UK. Arguments around how best to properly balance certain rights against others have taken place for as long they have been written down. But disagreement over how to incorporate human rights into domestic legislation, and what to do when the state is found to be in breach of its legal obligations, has become something of a fault line in British politics.
Following the Conservative Party’s election victory in May 2015, the Government was expected to make good on its manifesto pledge to repeal the UK’s Human Rights Act (HRA) and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. Yet the first Queen’s Speech of the new Parliament did not include any immediate move to repeal the HRA but instead promised to “bring forward proposals”.
There have also been indications that the UK’s commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) could be in doubt. In his first address to Parliament’s Justice Committee as Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, Mr Gove carefully stated that he “could not give a one-hundred per cent guarantee” that the UK would not ultimately withdraw from the ECHR.
This briefing seeks to respond to this debate by summarising the background to human rights protections in the UK, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the current system, providing analysis of the Government’s proposals to date and summarising the international ramifications of this process.