UK Gov shouldn’t change Human Rights Act without Senedd ‘consent’, say MPs
The UK Government should not change the Human Rights Act without the “consent” of the Senedd, according to a cross-party committee of MPs.
A report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights said amending the Act could risk the UK’s constitutional settlement as well as the enforcement of human rights.
The Government’s Independent Review of the Human Rights Act said its positive impact should be “welcomed and protected”.
The report concluded that the UK Government should not pursue reform of the Act without the consent of the devolved parliaments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The committee’s deputy chair, Edinburgh South West SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC, told The National: “Now more than ever, against the background of the pandemic and the threats to rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly implicit in the UK Government’s current legislative programme, the human rights and protections afforded by the Human Rights Act are very important.”
The Human Rights Act incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights Act (ECHR) into UK law.
MPs and peers on the committee said it was essential that any proposals to amend it take account of its unique role in the constitutional arrangements of the devolved nations.
Human rights cases are now heard first by judges in the UK’s domestic courts as a result of the Act. They are also heard sooner and actions is less prohibitively expensive.
Judges from the UK’s four nations are also able to take better account of the UK and national context of cases.
The report said it has resulted in an improvement in the enforcement and accessibility of human rights in the UK. The Act is also a central part of the devolution settlement.
The Independent Human Rights Act Review Panel was appointed in January 2021.
This was following the Tory manifesto commitment to “update the Human Rights Act and administrative law to ensure that there is a proper balance between the rights of individuals, our vital national security and effective government”.