“Absolutely no justification” for human rights reform

The Joint Commmitee on Human Rights has warned the government to abandon plans to "update" the Human Rights Act.

9 Jul 2021| News

The government must not push ahead with its plans to reform the Human Rights Act (HRA) as there is “absolutely no justification” for a change in the law, MPs have said.

A new report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights found that the HRA, which enacts the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in domestic law, has a positive impact on the welfare of UK citizens.

Because of the HRA, human rights cases can be heard by UK judges with a strong awareness of national context, which is fairer and less costly than taking issues to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the cross-party group of MPs said.

The HRA is also central to the devolution agreements between constituent countries within the UK and its amendment could trigger a constitutional crisis, the Committee warned.

In its 2019 election manifesto, the Conservative Party promised that it would “update” human rights. An independent review into the HRA was commissioned in January 2021 and is expected to report later this year.

“Against the background of the pandemic, the human rights and protections afforded by the Human Rights Act have come to the fore. For example, in responding to the pandemic, Ministers have had to respect our rights to a family life, to privacy, to associate with others, to protest and sadly, the right to life itself,” Harriet Harman, Committee Chair, said.

“Based on the evidence we have heard, we have come to the conclusion that there is absolutely no justification for any changes along the lines mooted.

“The Act both respects parliament and makes our courts powerful in enforcing human rights. The government must not make change which would at one and the same time, make it harder for people to enforce their human rights and expose the government and agencies to more judgments against them in the European Court of Human Rights.”