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Human Rights Act will be scrapped and replaced with British Bill of Rights, Justice Secretary Liz Truss confirms

The Conservative manifesto pledged to bring in a new 'Bill of Rights'

Published 22/08/2016

Tory backbenchers have urged Theresa May not to abandon plans to scrap the Human Rights Act
Tory backbenchers have urged Theresa May not to abandon plans to scrap the Human Rights Act

Conservative plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a so-called British Bill of Rights will go ahead, the Justice Secretary has said.

Liz Truss dismissed reports that that the Government was abandoning the policy, which was included in the Tories’ 2015 manifesto, to avoid a fight with the Scottish Government.

“We are committed to that. That is a manifesto commitment,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday morning.

“I’m looking very closely at the details but we have a manifesto commitment to deliver that.”

The Times newspaper reported earlier this month that the draft bill for the act had been junked.

“I think the priority for the justice department will be prison reform and she won’t want another fight with the Scottish government [which is opposed to the policy, and already fighting Brexit],” a source told the newspaper.

“I just don’t think the will is there to drive it through.”

The report was a surprise because Theresa May has previously expressed strong support for controversial constitutional change.

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“This is Great Britain, the country of Magna Carta, parliamentary democracy and the fairest courts in the world,” she said in a speech in April this year.

“And we can protect human rights ourselves in a way that doesn’t jeopardise national security or bind the hands of parliament.

“A true British bill of rights, decided by parliament and amended by parliament, would protect not only the rights set out in the convention, but could include traditional British rights not protected by the ECHR such as the right to trial by jury.”

She had also however conceded that there would be “no parliamentary majority” for pulling out of the European Convention on Human Rights, of which the Human Rights Act is the current British implementation.

Independent

Good Friday Agreement

Amnesty warned last year that the planned repeal by the UK government of the Human Rights Act 1998 “could have serious implications for Northern Ireland's peace settlement” and could undermine “public confidence in the new political and policing arrangements” which followed the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The agreement obliged the UK to incorporate the European Convention of Human Rights into law in Northern Ireland, which was subsequently done through the Human Rights Act.

The Northern Ireland Assembly can only make laws which are compatible with the Human Rights Act, a key safeguard in the region.

New policing arrangements, introduced after the Good Friday Agreement, are also heavily reliant on adherence to the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said last year: “The Good Friday Agreement is the cornerstone of a more peaceful Northern Ireland. The Human Rights Act not only fulfils one of the UK’s key obligations in the Agreement, but is crucial to ensuring public confidence in the new political and policing arrangements.

“Given the history of political discrimination and mistrust in policing in Northern Ireland, binding human rights obligations have been crucial in building and bolstering public confidence in these key structures post-Troubles.

“But public confidence can be eroded and undermined just as surely as it can be built.

“Any scrapping of human rights commitments could have serious implications for Northern Ireland's peace settlement.”

Meanwhile DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson welcomed the Justice Secretary’s commitment.

Mr Donaldson said: "I welcome that there is a clear commitment from the Justice Secretary, Liz Truss to look at the Human Rights Act, which was a pledge made in the Conservative manifesto. The Human Rights Act in principle was a good thing, however it has been abused by criminals and terrorists and it has failed to protect the rights of innocent victims adequately.

"The DUP has been critical of the Human Rights Act and the way in which it has been interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights, who have used it as a rather spurious way to undermine states on issues like deportation.

"My party believes that the United Kingdom should have a Bill of Rights that recognises and respects the diversity of the devolved arrangements across the country. As always the DUP is fully committed to creating a society in which people are safe, secure and protected and this will be our focus."

The other main Northern Ireland parties have not yet responded to a request for comment.

Independent News Service

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