We are still waiting for the government to provide more details of its proposed UK Bill of Rights, further to its manifesto commitment to repeal the Human Rights Act. The consultation process that has been promised on this has yet to be launched.
On 9 September Dominic Raab (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice) stated that we would not ‘have too long to wait for the consultation’ which would be released ‘towards the end of the autumn’. The leaves have fallen – and so I am now assuming that this was a reference to the astronomical definition of autumn, which ends on… 21 December (or so I understand).
Will the proposals themselves be ‘astronomical’? Leaks to the Sunday papers (on the first of which see, here), including 10 days or so to The Sunday Times suggest not. As Merris Amos has noted, commenting on what we learn from the latest leak, the ‘good news is that some of the most concerning aspects of previous plans appear to have been dropped’ (see Merris’ post here, for full details and great insights).
In the meantime, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) (at Westminster) has now been set up, following the election of 6 MPs to it recently (adding to the 6 members of the House of Lords). Its Chair, Harriet Harman, recently wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove, asking several questions related to the process of consultation that we await details of. The JCHR expressed its desire to be involved in the consultation, and its concern that the details of it (let alone the content of proposals themselves) remained so vague, especially given the importance of the issues at stake. The letter sought a response to the following questions (these have been extracted from the JCHR web site):
- ‘Can the Govt confirm that it has officially ruled out withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)?
- Is the Govt ruling out ending the UK obligation under international law (ECHR Article 46) “to abide by the final judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in any case to which they are parties”?
- What consideration has been given to the possible impact of changes to human rights framework on Britain’s standing abroad, and role of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the consultation?
- What are the proposals – and budget – for wider public consultation?
- What approach will the Govt take to consultation of devolved institutions and ensuring that views of different parts of the UK are heard’?
Many more questions than these remain, of course, but some answers to these would be nice for now.