What Is The British Bill Of Rights?
The rumours have been officially confirmed. Although repeatedly delayed, the UK’s Humans Rights Act will now be replaced by the Bill of Rights, assured the new Justice Secretary Liz Truss in a recent interview for BBC Radio 4. While Truss would not disclose the timeframe for publication of the Bill nor other particularities, she announced that right now she was “looking very closely at the details, but we (the Conservative Party) have a manifesto commitment to deliver that.”
Wait, what is this proposed Bill of Rights?
Okay, let’s take a step back here. If you remember, the British Bill of Rights was proposed by the Conservative Government in their 2015 election manifesto, with the aim to replace the Human Rights Act 1998. Passed by Blair’s Government, the Human Rights Act incorporated the postulates of the European Convention on Human Rights convention rights into UK law, so that all UK citizens could defend their rights in our own courts, instead of having to go to Strasbourg.
The main person standing behind the Bill of Rights is Michael Gove, the former justice secretary. But how did this suggestion come about by the Tories? Or, in other words:
Why scrap the Humans Rights Act in favour of British Bill of Rights?
The primary reason behind replacing the Humans Rights Act with the British Bill of Rights as a primary piece of legislation lies in the wish to return sovereignty and supremacy from the EU to the British Parliament. To change the text of the European Convention on Human Rights, member states of the Council of Europe must give their (unanimous to broad) consent. This is why the British Bill of Rights “would be set forth by the UK parliament or by another body directly on its behalf, operating under the principle of parliamentary sovereignty. The ability to alter what constitutes a ‘right’ would thus ultimately rest with the current parliament of the time, even if it had previously delegated that authority to another body.” (source)
And the European Convention on Human Rights has been a source of the Conservatives’ discontent for a very long time. In 2014, David Cameron addressed this issue in his party conference speech, listing only some of the hindrances: “Rulings to stop us deporting suspected terrorists. The suggestion that you’ve got to apply the human rights convention even on the battlefields of Helmand. And now, they want to give prisoners the vote.”
Two years later, it looks like the efforts behind the proposed Bill are finally coming to fruition. How much this piece of legislation is going to help British sovereignty in front of the EU remains yet to be seen.