The United Kingdom has a long, proud, and diverse history of freedom. This stretches from Magna Carta in 1215, the 1689 Claim and Bill of Rights, and the Slave Trade Act of 1807, through to the 1918 Representation of the People Act.
The Human Rights Act passed in 1998 has been a further stepping-stone along the path of that tradition. No law, however, is ever the last word on the subject.
This consultation marks the next step in the development of the UK’s tradition of upholding human rights. It has been informed by the work done by Sir Peter Gross, and the Panel he chaired which conducted the Independent Human Rights Act Review – the report which we are publishing alongside this consultation. I want to thank Sir Peter, the Panel and their team for their hard work, insights, and contribution to our thinking at the Ministry of Justice.
Our proposals, which form the basis of this consultation, reflect the government’s enduring commitment to liberty under the rule of law. The government remains committed to the European Convention on Human Rights – and, indeed, the UK’s tradition of human rights leadership abroad, as demonstrated by the introduction of our Magnitsky global human rights sanctions regime.
Equally, our system must strike the proper balance of rights and responsibilities, individual liberty and the public interest, rigorous judicial interpretation, and respect for the authority of elected law-makers. In this consultation, we assess how the Human Rights Act has operated in practice, and how it can be revised and improved.
We make far-reaching proposals for reform, with a particular focus on those quintessentially UK rights, such as freedom of speech and the right to trial by jury. We examine problematic areas, including the challenges in deporting foreign national offenders. We consider in detail the procedural framework of the Human Rights Act. And we look at the relationship between the UK courts and Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
We intend to revise and reform the flaws we have identified, and replace the Human Rights Act with a modern Bill of Rights, one which reinforces our freedoms under the rule of law, but also provides a clearer demarcation of the separation of powers between the courts and Parliament.
Our proposals recognise the diverse legal traditions across the UK, alongside our common heritage. We will be seeking the views of each of the devolved administrations, and across all four nations of the UK, to ensure we safeguard our human rights protections in accordance with a common framework, whilst reflecting our diversity and devolved competences.