The Government has decided not to pursue the controversial Bill of Rights, the Justice Secretary has confirmed.
On 27 June 2023, just over a year on from the draft Bill being laid before Parliament – and two Prime Ministers and several cabinet reshuffles later – the current Justice Secretary Alex Chalk confirmed to the House of Commons that the Government "have decided not to proceed with the Bill of Rights".
The Bill of Rights set out to remove the requirements for UK courts to interpret our laws compatibly with the European Convention on Human Rights (the ECHR), as is currently required by the Human Rights Act 1998.
The news that the Bill has officially been abandoned is the latest in the Bill's troubled history. As we explained in this article, the Bill, widely considered as the brainchild of Dominic Raab, was shelved during Liz Truss's short-lived premiership in October 2022. However, with a new Prime Minister and the reinstatement of Raab to the Ministry of Justice, questions remained as to whether the Bill would be pursued anew.
Fast forward to June 2023, and the new Justice Secretary has now set the nail in the Bill's coffin, confirming on 27 June 2023 that the Government will not proceed. Yet questions remain. In answering a question in the House of Commons, the Justice Secretary referred to a continuing desire to "recalibrate and rebalance our constitution", saying that the "Government remain committed to a human rights framework that is up to date". Whilst the Bill itself has been abandoned, it appears that the Government still has legislative change on its mind.
The timing is noteworthy. In July 2022, the Home Secretary described withdrawing from the ECHR as the only option to "fix" the immigration "problem". Just last week, in expressing the Government's disappointment with the Court of Appeal's ruling that Rwanda could not be treated as a safe third country, the Home Secretary spoke again of the Government's commitment to doing "whatever it takes to stop the boats".
With immigration remaining so high up the Government's agenda, it appears likely that this is not the end of the road for changes to the human rights legislative framework.