Scrapping the Human Rights Act will help protect human rights, Attorney General says

Jeremy Wright said the Act was not the same thing as human rights themselves

Jon Stone
Thursday 25 February 2016 11:28 GMT
Jeremy Wright is the Government's chief legal advisor
Jeremy Wright is the Government's chief legal advisor (Crown copyright)

Scrapping the Human Rights Act will help protect human rights, the Attorney General has argued.

Jeremy Wright, the Conservative MP who acts as the chief legal advisor to the Government, argued that replacing the Act would strengthen humanitarian protections.

The Government is moving to enact a Conservative manifesto promise to scrap the 1998 Act, which implements the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law and binds public bodies to follow its principles.

“It is not the case that human rights and the Human Rights Act are the same thing,” he told MPs in the House of Commons.

“It is possible to protect human rights without the human rights act, and in fact to do so better – that’s what this government intends to do.”

Mr Wright also told MPs he did not want to get rid of any human rights included in the Human Rights Act but that he wanted to change the way they were interpreted.

The Government aims to replace the act with a so-called “British Bill of Rights”, though it has yet to come up with specifics about what such an act would contain.

Suggestions before the general election from former justice secretary Chris Grayling that the UK might leave the European Convention on Human Rights have been set to one side in recent months.

A report released earlier this week by Amnesty International UK however warned that the UK was “setting a dangerous precedent” by scrapping the Act, arguing that the move was “a gift to dictators” who wanted to abuse their populations with impunity.

“There’s no doubt that the downgrading of human rights by this government is a gift to dictators the world over and fatally undermines our ability to call on other countries to uphold rights and laws,” said Kate Allen, the organisation’s director.

Mr Wright rejected the accusation, however, arguing that the group had overstated its case.

“We … will continue to passionately advocate the protection of human rights both in this country and abroad,” he said.

“It’s quite wrong to say that this government in common with its predecessor does not challenge those other states with a doubtful human rights record – we continue to do that.”

In October Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan condemned the UK’s new policy on human rights, arguing that it was “profoundly regrettable”.

“If Britain – a key member of the human rights council, a founding member of the UN and a privileged, permanent member of the security council – is considering a move that will potentially weaken a vital regional institution upholding fundamental human rights guarantees, this would be profoundly regrettable; damaging for victims and human rights protection; and contrary to this country’s commendable history of global and regional engagement,” he said.

“Moreover, many other states, where civil society is currently threatened, may gleefully follow suit. Surely this is a legacy no British government would wish to inspire.”

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