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Independent Human Rights Act Review

Volume 685: debated on Monday 7 December 2020

I am today announcing the creation of the independent Human Rights Act review. This review extends from our manifesto commitment and will take the form of an independent advisory panel which will provide the Government with options for updating the Human Rights Act (HRA). As Lord Chancellor, I am committed to upholding the UK’s stature on human rights. The UK contribution to human rights law is immense and founded in the common law tradition. We will continue to champion human rights both at home and abroad, and we remain committed to the European convention on human rights.

The HRA has been in force for 20 years, and therefore it is timely to undertake a review into its operation. The UK’s constitutional framework has always evolved incrementally over time, and it will continue evolving. We need to make sure that our human rights framework, as with the rest of our legal framework, develops and is refined to ensure it continues to meet the needs of the society it serves. The review will examine two key areas outlined in detail in the terms of reference, which will be deposited in the Libraries of each House. Broadly, the panel will consider the following themes:

The relationship between domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

The impact of the HRA on the relationship between the judiciary, the executive and the legislature.

The examination of the Act will consider the approach taken by domestic courts to jurisprudence of the ECtHR, and whether the HRA currently strikes the correct balance between the roles of the courts, Government and Parliament.

As part of its work, the review will also examine the circumstances in which the HRA applies to acts of public authorities taking place outside the territory of the UK, with consideration of the implications of the current position, and whether there is a case for change. The review is limited to consideration of the HRA, which is a protected enactment under the devolution settlements.

It is my intention that the panel shall consider these questions independently, thoroughly, and put forward options for reform to be considered by myself. The panel will report back in summer 2021 and their report will be published, as will the Government’s response.

The following people will become members of the panel. They have been selected on the basis of their wealth of experience, coming from senior legal and academic backgrounds. They have the breadth and depth of expertise required to consider the issues highlighted within the terms of reference effectively. The panel members are:

Sir Peter Gross—Panel Chair

Simon Davis

Baroness O’Loan

Sir Stephen Laws, QC

Professor Tom Mullen

Professor Maria Cahill

Lisa Giovannetti, QC

Alan Bates