Government minister gives equivocal answer
The threat by the current Conservative government to do away with the Human Rights Act (HRA) has lain dormant for some time due to the considerable time being devoted to the Brexit negotiations. However, it reared its head again this week when a House of Lords EU Justice subcommittee asked a government minister for reassurance that it (the government) will not repeal or replace the act.
The Parliament Website has the following piece:
The House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee wrote to Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke in December regarding the rights of citizens post-Brexit. The Committee sought an explanation for the dilution of the Government’s commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Last week the Committee received a troubling response. While again pledging an unchanging commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, the letter from Edward Argar MP, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, ended with reference to the Government’s intention to revisit the Human Rights Act once the process of leaving the EU is concluded. 18 January 2019 [accessed 22 January 2019 our italics]
This is very troubling. The hostility of many ministers and politicians to the HRA is well known and echoes the frequent stories and campaigns in the tabloid press. It is seen by some as a threat to our way or life and to giving terrorists and criminals a ‘get out of jail card’.
On the contrary, it is in our view, one of the most important pieces of legislation in the last 20 years. It has shifted power away from the state and given ordinary people a means to challenge faulty decisions. The Hillsborough enquiry is a recent example and would not have happened without it. As an Amnesty spokesperson put it:
The Human Rights Act has been central to the vital pursuit of justice in this country for the last 20 years. It is the unsung hero of UK life, holding powerful people and institutions to account when ordinary people are let down. It is deeply concerning that the Government refuses to acknowledge that reality.
The Human Rights Act is a critical safety net for everyone in our society. Any attempt to dilute or remove the essential protections the Human Rights Act provides should be categorically ruled out.
They are mounting a petition which you can take part in if you wish.
If the act is abolished, all that will happen is that we go back to the bad old days of people having to beat a path to Strasbourg to get justice.
Sources: Amnesty, Rights Info, Parliament Website
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