Human Rights Act, ECHR and Government accountability
3 facts that expose the Government’s Bill of Rights as a Rights Removal Bill
Posted on 12 Aug 2022
We all want to live in a society where everyone is treated fairly, with dignity and respect. But the Government’s Rights Removal Bill will put people in harm’s way and hide the powerful from accountability for their actions.
The Government is trying to rip up our Human Rights Act, the law that protects us all from abuse of power.
Despite the Conservative Party manifesto saying it would “update” the HRA – which could have been bad enough in itself – it turns out the real plan is to get rid of it.
And the so-called ‘Bill of Rights’ ministers want to replace it with will strip people’s rights away and make it harder for everyone to hold the Government and other public bodies like the police to account.
It is a ‘Rights Removal Bill’ – more power for them, fewer rights for you. Here’s what it does:
1. It allows the Government to decide who has rights
Under the Human Rights Act, everyone in the UK should enjoy the same rights. But the same can’t be said for the Government’s proposals. The text of the Bill of Rights makes it clear that ministers will decide who does and doesn’t have rights – turning fundamental human rights into privileges granted by the powerful.
This Rights Removal Bill allows the Government to say whose rights are more important than others – and goes so far as to explicitly identify some people who will have fewer rights.
There are no prizes for guessing that the Bill strips rights away from people challenging deportation and their relatives – paving the way for the Government to ramp up its toxic hostile environment and generally remove rights from non-British citizens.
And it doesn’t stop with migrants. The Bill also removes rights from British soldiers serving abroad if they are treated badly by the Ministry of Defence – such as those injured and killed when travelling in defective Snatch Land Rovers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Allowing the Government to decide who gets rights weakens protections for everyone.
2. It gives public authorities licence to ignore people’s rights
Under the Human Rights Act, public authorities – like the Government, local councils, and police – have to put measures in place to respect and protect people’s rights.
It was this duty to protect rights that enabled the victims of serial rapist John Worboys to force the Metropolitan Police to properly investigate his crimes.
And it was the duty on the State to properly investigate deaths in suspicious circumstances that forced the second inquest into the Hillsborough disaster that finally got the truth for the 97 people who died.
But the Rights Removal Bill tells courts to bow to the expertise of public authorities when it comes to allocating their own resources. This seriously weakens judges’ powers to make sure public bodies protect people’s rights and investigate and learn when things go wrong.
This could have a disastrous impact on people in everyday circumstances – from being treated with dignity in care homes to supporting disabled children with education.
3. It makes it harder for people to challenge abuse of their rights
The Human Rights Act empowers everyone in the UK to challenge abuse of their rights in British courts, but the Rights Removal Bill will make this much more difficult.
The Bill requires a person to prove the abuse of their rights caused them to suffer ‘significant disadvantage’ before they can ever get to court. This will be incredibly difficult when they are up against the power of the State.
And locking people out of British courts in this way will force more people to go to the European Court of Human Rights – a much longer and much more expensive process. So it may be that justice will only be available to people who can afford it.
The ‘Bill of Rights’ will devastate our system of rights protection unless we come together to stop it.
We have faced threats to our Human Rights Act before and have won every time. And this Government is in disarray, having already pushed back the first Parliamentary debate on these plans until September at the earliest, and with the would-be Prime Ministers promising anything for votes.
If enough of us take a stand, we can force them to ditch this Rights Removal Bill. Sign and share our petition today.
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