Bill of Rights

First published 2011

The Commission has published a response to the Commission on a Bill of Rights, The case for the Human Rights Act. This provides an analysis and evidence of why all the mechanisms of the Human Rights Act (HRA) should be retained. It also argues that rather than repealing the HRA, the focus should be on improving the understanding and application of the HRA

The Commission believes that individuals gain essential protection from human rights violations through the HRA, and that it must be protected and preserved. The HRA is well crafted to balance Britain's international obligations with our constitutional conventions. In particular, it maintains parliamentary sovereignty and a primary role for judges in the interpretation of the Convention.

The government established an independent Commission on a Bill of Rights on 18 March 2011. It has the following terms of reference:

"The Commission will investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in UK law, and protects and extend our liberties.

It will examine the operation and implementation of these obligations, and consider ways to promote a better understanding of the true scope of these obligations and liberties.

It should provide interim advice to the Government on the ongoing Interlaken process to reform the Strasbourg court ahead of and following the UK's Chairmanship of the Council of Europe.

It should consult, including with the public, judiciary and devolved administrations and legislatures, and aim to report no later than by the end of 2012."

The Commission's response to the Bill of Rights

  • We live in a country with a long history of upholding people's rights, valuing diversity and challenging intolerance. Fairness, dignity and respect are values we all share.
  • It is in this context that the Human Rights Act has provided essential protection to everyone in Britain, enabling them to access their rights in our domestic courts. It both reflects and is embedded in our constitutional arrangements.
  • The Commission has always said that if a Bill of Rights were developed it should not water down any human rights protection contained in the Human Rights Act, but use it as a starting point to see where additional, essential protections could be brought in. These protections might include bringing into our laws other rights (such as those protected by UN treaties) or strengthening arrangements for the enforcement of current rights.
  • The Human Rights Act has shown its value by providing an essential safeguard in areas such as protecting older people and disabled people who are receiving care, defending the right of British servicemen and women fighting abroad to have the appropriate equipment when risking their lives on behalf of the nation and protecting the freedom of our press. It has enabled British people to make claims in British courts rather than having to go through the costly and time-consuming process of going to a European court.
  • The Commission welcomes a debate on such an important issue, but would not support a reversal of the leading global role Britain has long played in protecting and promoting human rights nor the reduction in the protections we all currently enjoy under the Human Rights Act.

You can also review our other responses and research on a Bill of Rights below.

Last Updated: 08 Sep 2015