Human Rights Act reform: The 8th March 2022 deadline for consultation submissions is fast approaching
In December 2021 the Government announced its plans to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 – the legislation transposing into UK law the vast majority of the rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights – with a new Bill of Rights. The announcement is the culmination of a long history of successive Conservative and indeed Labour governments pledging to amend, withdraw and/or replace the Human Rights Act. It follows the Independent Human Rights Act Review, which, in 2020, was tasked with examining how the Human Rights Act operates in practice. In its December 2021 report the panel concluded that, overall, the Human Rights Act was working well, but made recommendations for some changes.
As the current proposal makes clear, the Government now plans to, for example, (1) extend the use of declarations of incompatibility to secondary legislation, (2) introduce a permission stage for human rights claims, and (3) restrict the application of human rights in deportation cases. If adopted, the proposed changes are bound to have a significant – and arguably detrimental – impact on administrative and constitutional law, and the rule of law more broadly.
As public law practitioners whose work regularly involves issues under the Human Rights Act, we, and many of our professional clients, can draw on our civil litigation expertise to offer an important, practice-based perspective on the proposed changes. There is no need to comment on all 30 substantive questions. For example, one can choose to only answer the question on “proportionality review”, in what circumstances damages should be awarded for human rights breaches, or whether the current definition of “public authorities” needs changing. Submissions on all or parts of the proposal can be made, individually or collectively through an organisation (such as an NGO), until 8 March 2022.
Dr Christina Lienen is a member of Chambers’ Public Law and Judicial Review practice team. Her academic work focuses on the constitutional and human rights protection offered by the English common law.