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UK Bill of Rights

Volume 532: debated on Thursday 8 September 2011

The Government established an independent commission to investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights in March 2011, fulfilling a commitment made in our programme for government. The commission has been asked to explore a range of issues surrounding human rights law in the UK and also to provide interim advice on reform of the European Court of Human Rights ahead of our chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which begins in November 2011 and runs for six months.

I am today placing in the Library of the House copies of two letters received from Sir Leigh Lewis, the chair of the commission on a Bill of Rights, which have been sent jointly to the Deputy Prime Minister and myself. The first letter contains the interim advice which the commission was asked to provide to the Government on reform of the European Court of Human Rights, in advance of the UK’s chairmanship of the Council of Europe. The second letter sets out a number of issues on which the commission has not yet reached conclusions, and which it intends to continue to consider as part of its work programme.

The Government welcome the commission’s interim advice on the reform of the European Court of Human Rights. Our top priority when we take over the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will be to deliver and build upon the ongoing reform process. It must focus on the most important cases and have proper regard to the judgment of national Parliaments and courts. It must operate more effectively and efficiently as a proper safeguard against human rights abuses. Our plans will be informed by the commission’s advice. The commission will continue to explore the case for a UK Bill of Rights, and we look forward to receiving its final report by the end of next year.