The Society has commented on the proposals to introduce a British Bill of Rights following the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday, 18 May 2016.
We believe that the Human Rights Act 1998 is a key component of our society and has been extremely effective in protecting our rights through the domestic courts in the UK. However we think there is room for improvement of the Act, and the proposed British Bill of Rights should build on and enhance the protections we currently have.
We also feel that a stronger judicial role may be needed if a Bill of Rights is introduced. The current arrangements under the Scotland Act 1998 provide a much stronger way of dealing with non-compliance with European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) by Scottish Ministers than the HRA provides for the UK Parliament and UK Ministers. It’s important to remember that as long as the UK remains a party to the ECHR, the ECHR rights will be binding on the UK and can, through the Human Rights Act, be actionable in UK domestic courts. If however, the ECHR is no longer directly incorporated into the UK’s domestic law, individuals would have to go to the ECtHR in Strasbourg to enforce their rights under the convention. This was the situation prior to the enactment of the Human Rights Act in 1998 and in our view a return to this would be a backwards step.
A full transcript of the Queen's speech can be found on the GOV.UK website