Young man broadcasting Young man broadcasting

Current human rights debates

In this section you can read more about current human rights debates and get clarity on common human rights myths.

Protecting and promoting human rights

The government has announced that it intends to bring forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act. The government has also said that this would protect existing rights, which is a welcome step.

As a national human rights institution, we have a duty to protect and promote human rights. We also have a mandate from Parliament to promote understanding of the importance of human rights, and to advise government about the likely effect of proposed changes to the law.

The Commission has always said that any changes to the legal framework should not weaken the human rights protections that we all enjoy. We welcome a debate on such an important issue and look forward to contributing to the development of ideas but would not support a reversal of the leading global role Britain has long played in protecting and promoting human rights.

As the national expert body, we will continue to engage with government as proposals are developed, and we would expect to contribute fully to any consultation. As further details become available, we will continue to provide analysis of their implications.

Latest developments

We will keep this section updated with information about the proposals, the parliamentary process and our response.

22 September 2016 - Chair of the Commission calls for a Human Rights Act ‘plus’

The Commission’s Chair David Isaac made his first speech on human rights at the launch of the joint civil society report for the Universal Periodic Review Process, produced by the British Institute of Human Rights. In it, David spoke about how the Commission’s ultimate goal in any changes made to the Human Rights Act would be to strengthen protections, by enhancing the status of international human rights treaties in domestic law. Read the full transcript of the speech

7 September 2016 - Creating a UK Bill of Rights was one of three priorities outlined by the Secretary of State for Justice at the Commons Justice Select Committee.

In her first appearance before the Justice Select Committee, Rt. Hon Liz Truss MP, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, confirmed that the Government planned to repeal the Human Rights Act and that it would not withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. She also discussed prison reform and reform of the justice system. A full transcript of the meeting can be found on the UK Parliament website.

6 September 2016 - Secretary of State for Justice answers questions about the Human Rights Act during Justice Questions

Rt. Hon Liz Truss MP, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, answered questions about the Human Rights Act during Justice Questions. She reiterated the Government’s commitment to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights ‘in due course’. She said that she wanted the UK’s Supreme Court to be the ‘ultimate arbiter of those rights’, but that the Government would not pursue withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights.

22 August 2016 - Secretary of State for Justice talks about Government plans for a British Bill of Rights

Following the EU referendum, the new Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, Rt. Hon Liz Truss MP, appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme where she discussed the Government's plans to introduce a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act. She said that a British Bill of Rights will go ahead, though there was no timeframe for any detailed proposals. There had been speculation that the legislation would not be introduced in this Parliament. However, the Lord Chancellor said “I’m looking very closely at the details but we have a manifesto commitment to deliver that.”

24 May 2016 – House of Commons debate on the Queen’s Speech

MPs debated parts of the Queen’s Speech concerning Europe, human rights and security, including the planned British Bill of Rights. Read a transcript of the debate.

18 May 2016 - the Queen’s Speech

In the Queen's Speech to Parliament the UK Government reaffirmed that "Proposals will be brought forward for a British Bill of Rights”. In background briefing notes (p.48), the Government confirmed that the proposals would be based on the European Convention on Human Rights, and subject to full consultation.

16 May 2016 - Justice Secretary's response to JCHR's letter about the UK’s future relationship with the European Convention on Human Rights

Rt. Hon Michael Gove MP responded to the letter from the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), in relation to the UK’s future relationship with the European Convention on Human Rights. Read the Justice Secretary's Letter (PDF).

9 May 2016 – Report of the European Union (EU) Justice Sub-Committee

The EU Justice Sub-Committee published their report on the UK, the EU and a British Bill of Rights. A statement from our Chief Executive in response to the report is now available.

28 April 2016 - JCHR letter to the Justice Secretary about the UK’s future relationship with the European Convention on Human Rights

The Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), Rt. Hon Harriet Harman MP, wrote to Michael Gove. Read the JCHR's letter (PDF).

25 February 2016 – House of Commons questions to Attorney General’s Office

There were discussions about the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice. There were also questions from SNP MPs about what discussions had taken place with the Scottish Government on the repeal of the Human Rights Act and its implications for Scotland. The Attorney General replied that the government is considering the devolution implications of the Bill of Rights carefully. Read more details of the debate Human Rights Obligations – oral session – Attorney General’s Office (Word).

11 February 2016 – Justice Secretary’s response to letter from JCHR

Michael Gove responded to the letter from the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), Harriet Harman about the timing of the proposed British Bill of Rights consultation. The consultation will be published in due course and will adhere to any guidance regarding the pre-election period. Read letter from Rt. Hon Michael Gove MP

2 February 2016 - evidence to the European Union (EU) Justice Sub-Committee

Rt. Hon Michael Gove MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice and Mr Dominic Raab MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice gave evidence to the EU Justice Sub-Committee on the 'Potential impact of repealing the Human Rights Act on EU Law. An unrevised transcript of evidence is now available.

22 January 2016 - Council of Europe visit

Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, has completed a six-day tour of the United Kingdom where his main focus was the government’s forthcoming plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights. Mr Muižnieks visited the Commission as well as other national human rights institutions in Scotland and Northern Ireland and also spoke with civil society organisations. A full statement from the Commissioner reflecting on his visit is now available.

17 December 2015 - human rights across the UK and Ireland

The Chairs and Chief Executives of the national human rights institutions for Ireland, Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Scotland met on 2 December to share progress and discuss future collaboration. As NHRIs, we all have duties to advise our governments and to promote awareness, understanding and protection of human rights, equality and good relations Human Rights across the UK and Ireland in 2015 and beyond

10 December 2015 - International Human Rights Day

To celebrate Human Rights Day our Director of Human Rights, Andrea Murray, wrote a blog about Roosevelt's Four Freedoms and the upcoming Bill of Rights Consultation. International Human Rights Day - our rights and our freedoms

2 December 2015 - oral evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee

The Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, gave oral evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee regarding the proposed UK Bill of Rights.

27 November 2015 - Justice Secretary's response to JCHR's letter about the Bill of Rights

Michael Gove responded to the letter from the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), Harriet Harman including issues raised in relation to the Bill of Rights and the forthcoming consultation. Read letter from Rt. Hon Michael Gove MP.

4 November 2015 – JCHR letter to the Justice Secretary about the Bill of Rights

The Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), Harriet Harman, wrote to Michael Gove asking him for further details of the government's plans for consulting on the proposed UK Bill of Rights. Read the JCHR's letter (PDF)

8 September 2015 – House of Commons question about proposals for a British Bill of Rights

Dominic Raab, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice was asked about his plans to open a consultation on proposals for a British Bill of Rights. He responded by stating that he will bring forward the proposals this autumn and these will be subject to full consultation. More details can be found in the transcript of the debate.

8 July 2015 - Prime Minister's Questions - Human Rights Act (HRA)

The Prime Minister was asked by the Acting Leader of the Opposition about his plans for the Human Rights Act. More details can be found in the transcript of the debate.

2 July 2015 - Lords debate on human rights and civil liberties in the UK

Lord Wallace of Tankerness (LD) proposed a motion to take note of the challenges facing the culture of human rights and civil liberties in the United Kingdom. A full transcript of the debate is now available.

30 June 2015 - Westminster Hall debate on the future of the Human Rights Act 1998

We provided a briefing for a House of Commons debate on the future of the Human Rights Act 1998. In it, we welcomed the debate on this important matter, and reiterated our view that any changes to the legal framework must not reduce essential human rights protections, nor weaken the redress mechanisms for breaches of human rights. A full transcript of the debate is now available.

8 June 2015 - letter to the UN Human Rights Committee

We wrote a joint letter with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and Scottish Human Rights Commission. In it, we reiterated some important aspects of the Human Rights Act, and our belief that any change should not be a step back and should come from an inclusive public process. The letter accompanies our report on the UK’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

4 June 2015 - Parliamentary debates on the Queen's Speech

To see what has been said in Parliament so far about the government's plans, you can read transcripts of the debates on the Queen's Speech in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

House of Lords

Queen's Speech Debate:  

1st day - 27 May 2015
2nd day - 28 May2nd day continued
3rd day - 1 June3rd day continued
4th day - 3 June

House of Commons

Debate on the Address:

1st day - 27 May 2015
2nd day (Home Affairs and Justice) 28 May
3rd day (Britain in the World) 1 June
Prime Minister's Questions: 3 June 2015

27 May 2015 - Queen’s Speech

In the Queen’s Speech to Parliament, and accompanying briefing, the UK government stated that it: “will bring forward proposals for a Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act. This would reform and modernise our human rights legal framework and restore common sense to the application of human rights laws. It would also protect existing rights, which are an essential part of a modern, democratic society, and better protect against abuse of the system and misuse of human rights laws.”

18 March 2015 - letter to the Joint Committee on Human Rights

Our Chair and CEO wrote to the Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) before the May 2015 election. Our letter emphasised the essential protections of rights that we all enjoy contained in the Human Rights Act, and warned that any changes to the legal framework should not weaken these protections. It also addressed a number of concerns and confusions about the way the Human Rights Act operates.

Related links

  • What are human rights?
  • Human Rights Act The Human Rights Act protects the rights of everyone in the UK, by incorporating the rights in the European Convention on Human Rights into our legal system.