Raab’s Bill of Rights would not work in practice

30 May 2022

In the early years, Abu Hamza al-Masri’s deportation from the United Kingdom to America became a national conversation. Despite numerous requests to extradite the radical preacher who called out for global jihad, this case spent years traveling up the courts and finally reaching the European Court of Human Rights. Although the judges ruled Hamza could be extradited without delay, they spent a lot of time weighing whether this would violate Hamza’s human rights as outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights. Shortly after Hamza’s deportation, then-Prime Minister David Cameron declared the extradition process should be quicker – a dog whistle for those who felt the requirement to consider ECHR rights should be reviewed.

Since then, the Human Rights Act’s proposed repeal has hung over government policies. Now, in the Queen’s Speech, Prince Charles has announced that “[M]y Ministers will restore the balance of power between the legislature and the courts by introducing a Bill of Rights”, implicitly declaring a repeal of the HRA. This was a long-awaited event.

Yet the narrative that has been constructed around the Human Rights Act — of a dilapidated Act that doesn’t pass muster — is odd to those who have seen it in action. Despite political posturing, most politicians accept that the ECHR has been a part of the UK’s human rights framework for over two decades because it tends to work quite well. The Act can cause problems for ambitious Ministers who want their policies to be passed without any opposition (this is similar to the issue they have with a review by the courts). The Act does, however, do what it is supposed. It effectively imports a set of clear and consistent rules for defending and protecting the legal rights and interests of individuals.

It has proven that it can be objective and fair regardless of which government is in power. The Act, out of all the law pieces, has never been subject to serious criticism regarding its inability to work and has never been accused as being unfit for its intended purpose by anyone with no political stake in its removal.