Plaid Cymru MP calls for Welsh Human Rights Bill to counter Westminster ‘attacks’
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has criticised the UK Government’s plans to abolish the Human Rights Act, and called for a Welsh Human Rights Bill to “counter Westminster attacks” .
The MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd said the proposed legislation introduced by Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab in the House of Commons today, displayed “callous disregard for the essential universality of human rights” and called on the Welsh Government to accelerate plans to enshrine human rights law into Welsh law.
The Welsh Government has previously said it would “explore incorporating UN Conventions into Welsh law which could potentially lead to a Welsh Bill of Rights”.
Speaking in the House of Commons, she said: “The UK Government’s scrapping of the Human Rights Act not only shows a callous disregard for the essential universality of human rights, but for devolution in Wales too.
“The Human Rights Act is woven directly into Wales’s constitutional settlement. Changes to the Act will undermine our efforts to promote human rights and equality.
“When, not if, Wales refuses legislative consent to this erosion of human rights, will he use legalistic bullyboy tactics to trample on our democracy too?”
Mr Raab responded: “No, of course, not Mr Speaker.”
Speaking after the session, Ms Saville Roberts added: “The Tory Government in Westminster is becoming increasingly brazen in their attacks on our fundamental rights.
“It is vital that in response to these attacks, we embark on a programme of strengthening the human rights framework in Wales, as is the case in Scotland.
“The Welsh Government should waste no time in creating a Welsh Bill of Rights which more directly incorporates international human rights law.
“This must be done alongside the wholesale devolution of justice so that we can to uphold, better enforce and expand on universal human rights in Wales.”
Mr Raab,the UK Government’s Justice Secretary told the House of Commons that a British Bill of Rights will “restore a healthy dose of common sense” to the justice system.
He also sought to reassure members that the UK will not leave the European Convention on Human Rights, an international agreement that underpins human rights law as well as peace in Northern Ireland.
Mr Raab introduced the proposed legislation after the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg disrupted the UK Government’s controversial flagship policy for asylum seekers who arrive on unauthorised journeys.
The Justice Secretary wants the successor to the Human Rights Act to assert that British courts do not always need to follow case law from Strasbourg and that the Supreme Court in London is the ultimate decision-maker on human rights issues.
He told MPs: “Our Bills of Rights will strengthen our proud tradition of freedom, it will demarcate a clearer separation of powers.
“It will ensure greater respect for our democratic institutions and it will better protect the public and restore a healthy dose of common sense to the justice system which is essential for commanding public confidence.
“Ultimately it will make us freer, it will help keep our streets safer.
“We will strengthen the separation of powers in this country, affirming the supremacy of the Supreme Court, being explicit that the UK courts are under no obligation to follow the Strasbourg case law and indeed are free to diverge from it.”
But Mr Raab said the UK “intends to remain a state party” to the European Convention on Human Rights.
He added: “The problems that we encountered have stemmed from the elastic interpretations and the expansion of absent meaningful democratic oversight, in particular as a result of the procedural framework set out in the Human Rights Act.”
The key objects with reform, he said, are to “reinforce those quintessentially UK-wide rights like freedom of speech”, adding “we will also recognise the role of jury trial”.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.