Current Affairs

Plans to scrap Human Rights Act shelved because of Brexit

Nick Duffy December 9, 2016
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The government has shelved plans to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a ‘British Bill of Rights’ due to fallout from Brexit.

In its manifesto, the governing Conservatives pledged to scrap the 1998 Human Rights Act and replace it with a ‘British Bill of Rights’. Articles 8 and 14 of the Human Rights Act, which afford protection from discrimination and the right to family life, have been used in many legal cases to argue for equal treatment of LGBT people, and were integral in early LGBT rights victories.

Rights groups had expressed concern about the plans, re-announced earlier this year, amid fears the change could weaken the status of human rights in UK law.

A planning document that was previously made public on the Conservative Party website previously proposed that the new British Bill of Rights will only be applicable in certain circumstances, and will not be valid for “trivial” matters.

Meanwhile evangelical Christian groups have pressed for a ‘reasonable accommodation’ to be codified in a Bill of Rights, to permit discrimination against LGBT people on the grounds of religion.

However, the government admitted this week that the plans would not be pushed forward in the short-term due to the complexities of Brexit negotiations.

Responding to a question from MP Peter Bone yesterday, Attorney General Jeremy Wright admitted the government would focus on “other things on our plate”.

“We remain of the view that human rights law requires reform…  the Government is certainly committed to seeking to do something about that.

“He will have noticed we have a few other things on our plate at the moment, and we will need to resolve those I think before we can resolve the matter he refers to.”

The Lib Dems’ Shadow Justice Secretary Jonathan Marks QC said: “I am glad that the Government have put this vanity project on the backburner. The Human Rights Act protects all our rights and any attempts by this Government to erode them will be met with the most robust opposition, certainly from Liberal Democrats, but also from the other opposition parties and some on the Conservative benches as well.

“Now more than ever our rights, enshrined in British law under the Human Rights Act, must be protected and upheld. So I would urge the Government to abandon these plans and get on with trying to agree on a plan for our future relationship with our European partners.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon previously rallied to defend the HRA.

She said: “[It] matters hugely to LGBTI people in Scotland, throughout the UK and beyond. Without the underpinning of fundamental rights that is provided by the European Convention on Human Rights and legislation such as the Human Rights Act 1998, the immense progress on LGBTI rights that we have seen since the 1980s would undoubtedly have been more difficult.

“Although that progress has been achieved in Scotland, there are far too many countries around the world where LGBTI people continue to live in fear of their lives.

“The Scottish Government will do everything in our power to ensure that vital human rights protections remain for people in Scotland.”

More: brexit, British Bill of Rights, Discrimination, Equality, Gay, Human Rights Act, Law, LGBT, Rights, Sexuality

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