The Government has shelved its plans for a Bill of Rights, a law designed to give ministers the power to ignore human rights rulings from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), such as the court’s temporary block of the British government's plans to remove migrants to Rwanda.
The ECHR is an international court set up in 1959. It rules on individual or state applications alleging violations of the civil and political rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. The Human Rights Act was introduced in 1998 and it sets out in law a set of minimum standards of how everyone should be treated by public bodies.
The Bill of Rights was intended to reassert the primacy of UK law on human rights cases, i.e. that the UK's Supreme Court had legal supremacy and ECHR decisions did not always need to be followed by British courts. The bill also contained measures to make it easier to deport foreign criminals by restricting their right to appeal using human rights arguments, namely, to prevent a foreign criminal’s private or family life from trumping the government’s plans to effect their removal.
The Conservative Party has been hostile to the UK’s human rights legislation since its inception in 1998. In 2019, the Conservative Party manifesto promised to "update" the Human Rights Act. Whilst during the recent Tory leadership campaign, Liz Truss promised to strengthen the Bill of Rights to provide a "sound legal basis" to tackle illegal migration. The proposals committed to staying within the ECHR, despite pressure from some Conservatives to leave the European Convention on Human Rights altogether.
The reprieve for human rights safeguards in the UK may only be temporary – the new Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, campaigned on a commitment to withdrawing from the ECHR.
Plans to introduce the Bill of Rights or otherwise exit the European Convention on Human Rights are unpopular with the legal profession and human rights groups, who view the government’s wish to remove judicial scrutiny of its actions with acute concern.