Commission strongly opposes UK Government’s Bill replacing the Human Rights Act

The Scottish Human Rights Commission is strongly opposed to the deeply regressive provisions in the UK Government’s “Bill of Rights”, intended  to replace the Human Rights Act, laid before the UK Parliament today. 

The Commission is clear in its view that the Human Rights Act works well as it stands, an opinion shared by others across UK and Scottish human rights organisations, the UK Joint Committee on Human Rights, civil society and the UK Government’s own Independent Human Rights Act Review, which concluded there is no case for widespread reform.  

We strongly urge the UK Government, MPs and Members of the Lords to respect the UK’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and retain the Human Rights Act in its current form.  

Ian Duddy, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, says: 

“The UK Government’s new ‘Bill of Rights’ will water down human rights protections, erect additional barriers to accessing justice and see the UK refuse to comply in full with decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.  

“Over the last 20 years the Human Rights Act has helped protect the rights of individuals throughout the UK, including children, disabled people, workers, victims of crime, and those seeking asylum. The Human Rights Act has also safeguarded access to justice, privacy, freedom of religion or belief and the right to protest.

“We are concerned that the UK Government’s new ‘Bill of Rights’ will undermine this progress and strip away accountability, oversight and access to justice.

 “If passed, the impact would be deeply regressive, undermining 20 years of human rights law and policy development across the UK, making it harder for people to enforce their rights and putting the UK in breach of its international obligations. 

“We call on the UK Government to present the new Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny so that its implications for everyone can be examined and understood.”  

The Commission is also particularly concerned about the following proposals within the new Bill: 

  1. Directing national courts as to how to interpret and apply human rights. 

    This interferes with the role of courts, undermining the separation of powers, and reducing accountability for breaches of rights. 
  1. Decoupling UK national courts’ interpretation of Convention rights from the European Court of Human Rights.

    This will introduce confusion and uncertainty for rights holders and duty bearers alike, and may further reduce rights protection.

  1. Requiring a rights holder to demonstrate “significant disadvantage” before being permitted to pursue a remedy for a breach of their human rights in court.

    This will severely undermine the development of a rights-respecting culture and the international human rights requirement to provide an adequate remedy for all human rights breaches.

  1. Requiring our national courts to take into account the wider conduct of rights holders.

    This will undermine the universality of human rights, a fundamental principle of human rights law.  

  1. The impact of repealing the Human Rights Act in Scotland.

    The Human Rights Act is embedded into the Scotland Act. The potential impact of repealing the Human Rights Act, in terms of the fulfilment of human rights in Scotland, does not appear to have been adequately considered.


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Notes to Editors 

  1. Read the Commission’s full submission to the UK Government’s consultation on its proposals on our website 
  2. You can also read a comprehensive review of the Commission’s work on Defending the Human Rights Act on our website.