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MPs say British bill of rights could ‘unravel’ constitution

13th May 2016

The government’s proposed bill of rights could start “unravelling” the constitution, a cross-party parliamentary committee is warning.

A report by the House of Lords’ European Union justice sub-committee urges ministers to rethink plans to scrap the Human Rights Act.

“Were the UK to depart from the standards of human rights currently recognised within the EU,” the report states, “the system of mutual recognition which underpins EU justice and home affairs cooperation would be hampered by legal arguments over its application to the UK.”

The report urged the government “not to introduce domestic human rights legislation that would jeopardise the UK’s participation in this important area of EU cooperation in the fight against international crime,”

as it would mean that the UK “would be entering into uncharted constitutional territory. The difficulties the government faces in implementing a British bill of rights in the devolved nations are substantial. “

The committee has four Labour members, three Conservatives, three cross-benchers and two Liberal Democrats. Labour peer Baroness Kennedy, who chairs the committee, said that “Many witnesses thought that restricting the scope of the Human Rights Act would lead to an increase in reliance on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in UK courts, which has stronger enforcement mechanisms. This seemed to be a perverse consequence of a bill of rights intended to give human rights greater UK identity.”

“We heard evidence that the devolved administrations have serious concerns about the plans to repeal the Human Rights Act. If the devolved parliaments withheld their consent to a British bill of rights it might very well end up as an English bill of rights, not something we think the government would want to see,” she continued to say.

“The more evidence we heard on this issue the more convinced we became that the government should think again about its proposals for a British bill of rights. The time is now right for it to do so.”