Committee report: ‘A Bill of Rights for the UK?’

On 10 August 2008, Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights published its Twenty-ninth report on ‘A Bill of Rights for the UK?’.

The Committee recommends that strengthening the legal protection for the rights of vulnerable and marginalised people should be one of the principal purposes of any new Bill of Rights.

The report expresses ‘regret that there is not greater clarity in the Government’s reasons for embarking on this potentially ambitious course of drawing up a Bill of Rights. A number of the Government’s reasons appear to be concerned with correcting public misperceptions about the current regime of human rights protection. under the HRA. We do not think that this is in itself a good reason for adopting a Bill of Rights. As we have consistently said in previous Reports. the Government should seek proactively to counter public misperceptions about human rights rather than encourage them by treating them as if they were true’.

The Committee agrees that any UK Bill of Rights has to be “ECHR plus”. It cannot detract in any way from the rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. But it should also be “HRA-plus”, that is. add to and build on the Human Rights Act (HRA) as the UK’s scheme of human rights protection. It is imperative that the HRA not be diluted in any way in the process of adopting a Bill of Rights.

The Committee is concerned that by making an explicit link between human rights and citizenship, the Government may foster the perception that non-citizens are not entitled to fundamental human rights. The Committee is strongly opposed to any UK Bill of Rights being called either a Bill of Rights and Duties or a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. Rights should not be contingent on performing responsibilities. nor should a Bill of Rights impose enforceable duties on individuals or responsibilities which they are already required by the general law to discharge.

Click here for Volume I – Report together with formal minutes

Click here for Volume II – Oral and Written Evidence