Human rights

Bill of Rights Bill

The Bill of Rights Bill was introduced to parliament in June 2022.

It repeals and replaces the Human Rights Act 1998, which incorporates and makes the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) domestically enforceable.

Overview of the bill

The Bill of Rights Bill retains all the convention rights as well as their ability to be enforced in domestic courts.

It does not alter the UK’s membership of the ECHR and the obligations it places on government to secure the full range of convention rights for everyone in the UK.

Public authorities are still required to act compatibly with human rights.

The bill changes or removes provisions of the Human Rights Act and introduces a large number of new measures, including:

  • introducing a new permission stage, requiring claimants to prove they have (or would) suffer significant disadvantage as a result of a breach of their rights before they can take their claim to court
  • setting a higher threshold for challenges to deportations for foreign national offenders based on the right to private and family life
  • removing the duty on courts to interpret legislation compatibly with convention rights
  • removing the duty on courts to consider how the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) has interpreted a right
  • limiting the interpretation of rights to a literal reading of the text of convention rights
  • prohibiting courts from finding a public body owes a positive obligation (which would require the public body to take certain steps to actively protect, fulfil or facilitate a right)
  • requiring courts to give great weight to the views of parliament when balancing rights issues
  • preventing human rights claims that arise from overseas military operations

Our view

The Human Rights Act provides robust protections for the rights and freedoms of everyone in the UK and ensures they can enforce these in domestic courts.

It strikes the right balance between the democratic powers of the executive, parliament and the courts.

We do not believe there is a case for the sweeping reforms proposed.

The government’s own appointed panel in the Independent Human Rights Act Review found that the Human Rights Act is working well overall.

The vast majority of responses to the government’s later consultation were also clear they did not support the proposals put forward, with 80–90% rejecting the reforms.

The Bill of Rights Bill lowers the level of protection given to human rights. It significantly weakens the ability to enforce these rights through the courts to hold the state accountable for human rights violations.

The bill makes it harder to access the courts and limits the protection they can provide to someone whose rights have been violated.

It restricts or rolls back elements of rights across the board and reduces rights for certain categories of people.

We believe the proposals will:

  • damage the rule of law
  • prevent access to justice
  • reduce or remove rights
  • lead to more cases being taken to the ECtHR
  • impact devolution
  • damage the UK’s international reputation
  • create legal uncertainty

What we’re doing

June 2022 – we responded to the Bill of Rights Bill that was introduced to parliament

April 2022 – we raised our concerns with the UN in a submission to the universal periodic review of the UK (PDF 270 KB)

March 2021we responded to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on Human Rights Act reforms

February 2021 – we held a roundtable and online member forum to hear solicitors’ views on the proposed reforms

March 2021we responded to the Independent Human Rights Act Review call for evidence

February 2021 – we submitted an overview of our position to the Joint Committee on Human Rights to inform its response to the review

February 2021 – we held roundtables with expert solicitors to gather evidence and insights to inform our response to the review

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