Conservative Party Makes ‘Vague’ Pledge To Update Human Rights Act
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Conservative Party Makes ‘Vague’ Pledge To Update Human Rights Act

By Aaron Walawalkar, News and Digital Editor 25 Nov 2019
Institutions
Conservative leader Boris Johnson speaks at the launch of the Conservative Party manifesto in the 2019 general election. Credit: YouTube.

The Conservative Party has included a pledge to “update” the Human Rights Act (HRA) in its manifesto ahead of the 12 December general election.

The party’s manifesto published on Sunday (24 November) contains a commitment to “update the [HRA] and administrative law to ensure that there is a proper balance between the rights of individuals, our vital national security and effective government”.

It also includes a commitment to ensure that judicial review “is not abused to conduct politics by another means or to create needless delays,” while being available to protect individuals from an “overbearing state”.

Introduced in 1998, the HRA enshrined the Convention of Human Rights in domestic law. This means we are now able to go to courts in the UK to enforce our rights, rather than the human rights court in Strasbourg.

If elected, the party said it would convene a “Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission” in its first year in government to recommend proposals on how to update the HRA among other aspects of the country’s constitution and institutions. The document suggests that these proposals will not be looked at until “after Brexit”.

The pledge comes weeks after the party also promised to amend the HRA to prevent British soldiers facing legal claims of historic rights issues before the law came into effect in 2000.

The proposal to update the Act marks a change from the party’s 2015 manifesto pledge to scrap the Act altogether and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. It has been met with a mixed reception from lawyers.

Responding to the policy announcement, BBC Legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg simply said: “Yes but what does it mean?”

Tom Clark, editor of Prospect magazine, described the pledge as “vague” and “euphemistic” .

Human rights barrister Adam Wagner, chairman of EachOther, expressed fear and distrust towards the proposals but also described it as a “medium grass policy,” unlikely to have any effect in the immediate future.

He said it is important that the commission set-up to review the HRA is “broad based” with representation from across political parties.

Former government lawyer Carl Gardner highlighted that the HRA has now “outlasted three prime ministers who planned to change,” anticipating that the law would also outlast PM Johnson’s time in government, if elected.

The Conservative Party manifesto – titled “Get Brexit Done, Unleash Britain’s Potential” – contains four references to “human rights” in total.

This compares to 23 mentions of human rights in both the Labour Party’s manifesto and Liberal Democrat manifesto.

Labour, the Lib Dems, the Green Party, Plaid Cymru have all pledged to retain and protect the HRA in their manifestos. The Brexit Party’s manifesto contains no references to the Act.

Image Credit: The Guardian / YouTube.

Adam Wagner is the chairman and founder of EachOther. He played no role in writing this article. 

 

 

About The Author

Aaron Walawalkar News and Digital Editor

Aaron is an NCTJ-accredited multimedia journalist focussing on human rights. His extensive reporting on rough sleeping in east London has been nominated for multiple awards. He has worked for regional and national newspapers and produced illustrations, infographics and videos for humanitarian organisation RedR UK.

Aaron is an NCTJ-accredited multimedia journalist focussing on human rights. His extensive reporting on rough sleeping in east London has been nominated for multiple awards. He has worked for regional and national newspapers and produced illustrations, infographics and videos for humanitarian organisation RedR UK.