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The Bill of Rights: Back for Good?

Posted on 11 November 2022

In June 2022, the then Justice Secretary under Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, laid the draft Bill of Rights Bill before Parliament. Just three months later, on 7 September 2022, the Truss administration announced that the Bill was to be abandoned. Now, only two months later, it has been announced that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set to revive the Bill.

As we have set out in this article, the Bill sets out to remove the requirements for UK courts to interpret our laws compatibly with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as is currently required by the Human Rights Act 1998. When it was initially introduced in June 2022 under the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, commentary surrounding the Bill suggested that its introduction may have been in retaliation to the ECHR interfering with the Government's controversial policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda to have their claims processed.

Fast forward three months later to September 2022 and the Bill was abandoned under the then Prime Minister Liz Truss. As we set out in this article, this was perhaps unsurprising given the shake-up of the Cabinet at the time.

Now, under Rishi Sunak's premiership and the re-appointment of Dominic Raab as Justice Secretary, it has been announced that the Bill is back on the table. Commentary surrounding the announcement of the return of the Bill suggests that it is being brought back as part of the Prime Minister's plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel and to support the Rwanda policy. If the Bill was introduced, this would prevent the UK courts from interpreting domestic laws – including those dealing with the treatment of asylum seekers – compatibly with the ECHR. The Bill does not, however, prevent individuals from taking their cases to Strasbourg and a failure of the UK to comply with a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights would breach international law.

The Bill is now in the Parliamentary Stages, where it is currently in the House of Commons. The main principles of the Bill will be debated during the Second Reading and it will be further scrutinised in the Committee and Report Stages. The Bill will then be subject to a Third Reading in the House of Commons before being transferred to the House of Lords. Given the controversy to date on the Bill and the Government's policies, it is expected that the Government is likely to face a tough battle in getting the Bill through the various stages in the House of Lords.  

This firm has written extensively on the subject of the proposed amendments to the Human Rights Act 2008 (the HRA), including submitting a response to the Independent Human Rights Act Review panel and a response to the Government's consultation on proposed amendments to the HRA.

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