In the Queen’s speech in May 2022, Prince Charles announced the UK Government’s intention to take forward its plan to undermine human rights in the UK.
Reducing protection – a new ‘Bill of Rights’
“Her Majesty’s Government will ensure the constitution is defended. Her Majesty’s Ministers will restore the balance of power between the legislature and the courts by introducing a Bill of Rights.”
With these words Prince Charles announced the UK Government’s intention to take forward its plan to undermine human rights in the UK.
The framing of the proposal is telling – the focus is on systems and institutions, not the people and our enjoyment of our rights.
This isn’t surprising. The UK Government’s consultation document on the issue was so legally technical that participation was effectively barred to all except those with specialist legal training. We were highly critical of this in all our interactions with the UK Government on the issue.
To be clear, this is not how bills of rights should be drafted, and it’s not how they are typically drafted in modern democracies. The process of creating a bill of rights tends to be grounded in progressing rights and in ensuring that the people are able to participate and have our voices heard. Instead, as Adam Wagner QC points out, the bill of rights proposed by the UK Government will hold the dubious honour of being the first in a democracy to decrease rather than increase rights.
A raid on our rights
As we highlighted in our recent blog, the proposal should not be viewed in isolation, but rather as part of a legislative agenda led by the UK Government to erode human rights and target some of the most marginalised, and dismantle mechanisms to hold those in power to account.
The planned ‘bill of rights’ should also be considered in the context of other proposals in the Queen’s Speech. Whether it’s new legislation on Public Order (which may attempt to further undermine our right to protest), reform of how retained EU law can be amended (making it easier for Ministers to strip away equality protections without the oversight of Parliament), or the dearth of concrete proposals to combat the cost of living crisis – the legislative agenda proposed by the UK Government yesterday is not about protecting people; it is a raid on our rights.
But we are ready for the challenge.
We are part of a strong and vibrant civil society in the UK that is working together for a future where every person can realise their potential and live a life of dignity. We will continue to stand in solidarity with our partners and allies to protect the human rights of all and hold the UK Government and public authorities to account.
We will win.
For further analysis and background reading about recent and current legislative threats to rights in the UK, please check out our blog: Join the dots: our rights under attack.