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Human Rights Act

Volume 601: debated on Tuesday 3 November 2015

May I start by expressing my shock and sadness at the tragic death of Bailey Gwynne last Wednesday at Cults academy in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency? Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

We will bring forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act later this autumn. Preparations are going well, and we look forward to consulting widely, including with the devolved Administrations.

I thank the Minister for his condolences after the tragic events in my constituency. The thoughts of everyone in the Chamber are with the families affected.

As the Minister will know, human rights are not reserved under schedule 5 of the Scotland Act 1998, so the Human Rights Act cannot be repealed and replaced with a Bill of Rights without the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament—the First Minister of Scotland has said it is inconceivable that that would pass through Holyrood. With that in mind, why are the Government wasting money pursuing something that they cannot do?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question but I am afraid that is not quite right. Revising the Human Rights Act can be done only by the UK Government. The implementation of human rights in a wide range of areas is already devolved to Scotland, and I urge the hon. Gentleman to focus his efforts in that area.

Given the constitutional importance of this issue, will my hon. Friend confirm that the consultation will result in a draft Bill that will be subject to full pre-legislative scrutiny in this House?

I thank the Chair of the Justice Committee. We will be engaging in full consultation, but I hope my hon. Friend will not mind if I do not trail the precise terms of that at this moment.

As we have heard, the Human Rights Act is fundamental to devolution in Scotland and there are different legal views about how changes might be introduced. The Act is also fundamental to Wales, and it is the cornerstone of the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland. Do the Government recognise that abandoning the Human Rights Act may have consequences that they had initially not thought of?

We have engaged in consultation and taken a pause at this stage precisely to ensure that we work through all the different points. The hon. Gentleman mentions Scotland, and he will know that in 2014 and 2015 YouGov polling showed consistent Scottish support for a Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act. On that specific question, in 2011 YouGov found that 61% of Scots wanted the UK Supreme Court and this Parliament to have the last word in this country and across Britain, rather than the European Court of Human Rights.

The article 8 right to family and private life under the Human Rights Act has been stretched to the extent that it is laughable, pitiful, and often costly and unjust. Will the Minister reassure the House that the abuse of that right will be dealt with in the consultation, to reinject proportion and to strike the right balance for fairness?

A whole range of issues will be covered in the consultation and there will be plenty of opportunity to receive and listen to views, especially on article 8. That provision has clearly created problems concerning the deportation of foreign national offenders, and I would have thought that people across the House and the United Kingdom would support our consultation on that.