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Human Rights Act

Volume 618: debated on Tuesday 6 December 2016

11. What recent progress has been made on the Government’s plan to replace the Human Rights Act 1998. (907684)

As is well known, we shall set out our proposals for a Bill of Rights in due course, and we shall of course consult fully on those proposals.

In the light of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities finding that cuts to benefits meet the threshold for human rights violations, instead of replacing the Human Rights Act, should not the Secretary of State focus on ensuring the protection of rights to which the Government are already committed?

The UK Government and this country do not need lectures about our human rights record. Our country has a proud tradition that goes back 800 years of pioneering human rights and spreading our values around the world. We do not need any lessons.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that not only is it a good idea to make the change, but that we were members of the European convention on human rights for a whole generation before we put human rights legislation into British law, and that the clear understanding needs to be that British courts, informed by legislation from this Parliament, make the decisions?

Of course it was Winston Churchill in his famous speech in Place Kléber in Strasbourg who pointed out the importance of fundamental human rights after the second world war, and British lawyers played a very important part in framing the European convention on human rights. Having said that, it is right to consider what that should be in the modern context, and whether we need a British jurisprudence over those rights. That is what we are doing.

19. Five times in the past few years the UK Government have been found guilty of a breach of article 3 of the European convention on human rights for their treatment of people with mental health problems in immigration detention. Many more cases have been settled or are pending. Will the Minister confirm that the solution to that shameful state of affairs is not to water down that absolute right in order to avoid being found out? (907692)

Of course we respect human rights and the rights that are within the convention. No country has a better record of abiding by those decisions than this country. Having said that, there is a need to look critically at the Human Rights Act and how it operates, which is what we will do.

Does the Minister agree that the example of countries such as New Zealand, Canada and Australia prove that a country does not have to be a member of the European convention on human rights to have an excellent human rights record?

My hon. Friend’s point is that those countries have the common-law tradition that was founded in this country by our judges and our Parliament. The fact that it is expressed differently in Canada and countries of that sort does not mean that it does not have the same root. We in this country should be proud of that.