Human Rights Act, ECHR and Government accountability

It’s crunch time for some of the Government’s most dangerous Bills

Posted on 14 Apr 2022

Over the past year, the Government has introduced reams of seriously consequential legislation that will have a huge impact on our democracy. Now, with the Parliamentary session coming to an end, they are reaching crunch time to get some of these bills through – or risk them being dropped altogether.

Here’s a rundown of some of the most significant pieces of legislation that they will be trying to push through in the coming days.

The Elections Bill

The Elections Bill is, quite simply, a solution in search of a problem – and an expensive one at that.

The most worrying part of the Bill is the Government’s plan to introduce voter ID for elections – a move which would make it much harder for millions of people  to vote in elections, particularly those from already marginalised groups.

The Government is grossly inflating the risk of electoral fraud in order to justify passing these measures, which will prevent ordinary people making their voices heard – at a cost of £120 million to the taxpayer.

These measures have been contested in the House of Lords, where Peers have made amendments to expand the list of ID that would be accepted, including non-photographic ID such as utility bills – and further amendments on voter ID might be made next time the Lords vote on the Bill.

The Policing Bill

The Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has been condemned across civil society as a power-grab – clamping down on the right to protest, vastly expanding the powers of the police to surveil, criminalise, and punish marginalised communities, and criminalising Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities’ way of life.

Core to this Bill are the Government’s plans to ban ‘noisy’ protests, something that’s been dismissed by senior police leaders as almost impossible to enforce, saying that it will actually make officers’ jobs harder.

This Bill has been the subject of fierce debate between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, with Peers in the House of Lords voting three times to remove noise-based restrictions on protest from the Bill.

However, it’s expected that when the Bill returns to the Commons, the Government will once again try to reintroduce these measures.

The Judicial Review Bill

The Judicial Review bill is a really damaging piece of legislation designed to help the powerful hide from accountability.

Judicial Review is the means by which people can challenge public authorities when they have done something unlawful.

If this Bill is passed, it will make it harder for ordinary people to challenge injustice in court – and will mean that even when people do win, their victory may not have been worthwhile – for example, it could mean that someone could successfully challenge a decision on welfare benefits and win, but not receive the benefit the court recognised they were owed.

The Lords have made three amendments to the Bill to lessen its impact, but the Government are expected to try to overturn these when the Bill returns to the Commons.

Six other Bills in nine days

As well as these Bills, the government will also be trying to get six other Bills through – with just nine days to do so.

These include the Nationality and Borders Bill, which will fundamentally erode the UK’s asylum system, undermine migrants’ rights, and further entrench the Hostile Environment.

Today, the Government has announced a deal to move asylum processing offshore to Rwanda – an inhumane plan which will lead to human rights abuses.

It’s hugely unusual for so many controversial Bills to be going through Parliament with so little time left to pass them – and in large part, the Government has found itself in this situation because so many of the Bills are unpopular, unwieldy, and badly thought-out – meaning they have faced huge amounts of opposition throughout the Parliamentary process.

Parliamentarians have also highlighted the ways the anti-democratic nature of these Bills, whether because they have been rushed through the legislative process or because they delegate extensive powers to the Government of the day to make decisions on significant and substantive issues, without the need for full Parliamentary scrutiny.

At the same time, the Government is consulting on plans to overhaul Human Rights Act, which will stop ordinary people from standing up to power and holding public bodies to account.

Not too late to take action

The good news is that there’s still time to oppose the anti-democratic measures the Government are trying to push through.

Email your MP today and tell them to stand up for protest rights and stop the Government’s latest attempt to silence people.

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