Justice Secretary Liz Truss has confirmed plans for a British Bill of Rights are on hold while the UK negotiates leaving the EU.
A new British Bill of Rights was one of the Conservatives’ manifestio pledges in 2010 and 2015. The new law would replace the current Human Rights Act and the party said it would include all the current protections but also “restore common sense”.
The Human Rights Act was passed in 1998, and gives everyone basic protections including the right to family life, freedom of expression and privacy. Since the country voted to leave the EU however, ministers have suggested the plans to replace the Act with a new Bill of Rights would be shelved until after Brexit.
What has the Justice Secretary said?
Speaking in an interview to PoliticsHome, Liz Truss MP, explained:
Given that we are leaving the European Union and we will have the Great Repeal Bill going through parliament, clearly that is going to signify a major constitutional change. So the British Bill of Rights, whilst it remains a commitment, is not something we can do at the same time as we are putting through that Great Repeal Bill. That is going to affect the constitution… it’s important we only do one constitutional reform at a time.
This is the first time the Justice Secretary has confirmed the plans are on hold herself. Previously she had insisted the party were “absolutely” committed to the policy, although she was unable to provide a timescale.
So, what is the British Bill of Rights anyway?
Strictly speaking we already have a Bill of Rights – it was passed in 1689. However, these new plans are something different. A British Bill of Rights has been proposed as a replacement for the Human Rights Act.
The idea was first mooted by David Cameron more than ten years ago and was a firm manifesto commitment coming into the 2010 and 2015 general elections. Since the 2015 Election, it has repeatedly been reported that the Bill of Rights was about to be announced.
For more information:
- Take a look at the ‘British Bill of Rights’ section in our Explainers page.
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Liz Truss via Mr Gareth M / Flickr.