Plans to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 officially scrapped
The government has officially confirmed that it will not proceed with proposed legislation that would have replaced the Human Rights Act 1998 (‘HRA). The ‘Bill of Rights Bill’ was proposed in 2021 and introduced in parliament in summer 2022, however it never made it into law. Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has now confirmed that the government had abandoned the proposed legislation.
The Bill of Rights Bill is the most recent in a long history of attempts to weaken or replace the Human Rights Act 1998. It was originally spearheaded by Dominic Raab when he was lord chancellor under Boris Johnson and followed on from his ‘pledge’ to overhaul the Human Rights Act before the general election in 2019.
Raab was again appointed as lord chancellor under Rishi Sunak and as a result the Bill of Rights Bill remained on the agenda, though it seemed to have lost momentum.
In April 2023, when Raab was replaced by Alex Chalk many considered that the Bill of Rights Bill was unlikely to proceed. Chalk has now confirmed that the Bill of Rights Bill has officially been abandoned.
Why is this important?
The Human Rights Act 1998 provides robust legal protection for individuals against a large range of abuses by the State. It ensures that where the State (or any other public body) breaches any of the rights that it protects, the victim of that breach can bring a legal claim to enforce those rights in the UK domestic courts.
The Bill of Rights Bill sought to dramatically reduce those legal protections by, for example, limiting the obligations on the State to protect certain rights, limiting the definition of ‘public authority’ subject to the obligations under the HRA and increasing the threshold to bring a claim.
The effect of this would have been a significant weakening of the ability of individual citizens to obtain any redress in circumstances where the State had wronged them. In particular, this was likely to have impacted the most vulnerable in society.
What is next?
The introduction of the Bill of Rights Bill and replacement of the Human Rights Act 1998 would have had a hugely damaging impact on the rule of the law, access to justice and the UK’s international reputation. The news that the Government has finally abandoned their plans to push ahead with the Bill is welcome news.
However, in a context where the Government is continuing to pursue legislative reform that seeks to demonise vulnerable migrants and restrict individual rights to freedom of expression and protest, the Human Rights Act 1998 is likely to remain a target in future.
Its importance should not be understated and any future efforts to undermine its framework and the protections it affords should be robustly resisted.
For advice about making a claim against the state, our expert team of police action, civil liberties and human rights solicitors are experienced in bringing claims based on breaches of the Human Rights Act 1998. Please contact them on 020 7632 4300 to discuss your concerns.