Theresa May told to save the Human Rights Act

Theresa may copyright crown-tom evansweb

Theresa May. Copyright Crown/Tom Evans

More than 160 charities, unions and campaign groups sign letter showing support for the Act. 

12th December 2016 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

More than 160 charities, unions and campaign groups have signed a letter asking Theresa May to abandon plans to scrap the Human Rights Act.

The letter was published by the British Institute for Human Rights (BIHR) on Human Rights Day, 10 December, to highlight the strength of support for the Act.

A total of 164 organisations from across the UK put their signatures to the letter, including Amnesty International UK, Liberty and Human Rights Watch as well as trade unions, law firms and third sector bodies.

Stephen Bowen, Director of BIHR, said: “I hope the Prime Minister will listen to so many respected organisations, all with first-hand knowledge of how the Human Rights Act helps so many people in their everyday lives and why it isn’t something to scrap but something to cherish.”

“These are uncertain times and Theresa May should not be adding to the legal confusion, risking further division, or signalling that the UK wants to walk away from international standards. Instead, she can give us all something to cheer by saving the Human Rights Act.” 

The letter states that the Act "helps those delivering frontline services to make difficult ethical decisions" and "enables families to hold those in powerful positions to account". 

It says the legislation is "key to defending our free press and to protecting our democracy", saying the act is "the Bill of Rights we already have".

The letter goes on to state: “This year, huge uncertainty and upheaval began that will continue for years to come. It is not the time to add to the legal confusion, to risk further division or signal that the UK wants to walk away from international standards. Now is the time to champion, at home and abroad, the protection of hard-won human rights. For everyone.

“The day you became Prime Minister you said your mission was to make Britain a country that works for everyone, including the disadvantaged. You said that when your government passes new laws you would listen to ordinary people and you would do everything you could to give them more control over their lives.

“The Human Rights Act makes a much-valued difference to all our lives and for many people that difference is dramatic. Please, Prime Minister, drop the Government’s commitment to scrap the Human Rights Act.”   

Justice secretary Liz Truss confirmed in August that the Conservatives would deliver on their manifesto promise to scrap the Act.

The legislation, which was passed with cross-party support in 1998, incorporates into UK law the articles contained in the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.

It ensures British courts take account of fundamental freedoms such as the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of expression and the right to liberty and security.

Ms May is a long-time critic of the Act, telling Tory delegates in 2011 that it “needs to go”.

Her party has yet to give details on how their proposed British Bill of Rights would differ from the Act but a spokesman said a full consultation would be held before any announcement.