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Internal Markets Bill undermines human rights protections

22 October 2020

Today the Joint Committee on Human Rights have published their Report, “Legislative Scrutiny: United Kingdom Internal Market Bill”, which raises concerns about the Bill’s compatibility with human rights legislation.

The Committee’s report focuses on the human rights implications of Part 5 of the UK Internal Market Bill. This part of the Bill gives the Government the power to make regulations concerning:

(a) the application of exit procedures to goods travelling from Northern Ireland to Great Britain; and

(b) EU State Aid in Northern Ireland.

The Bill as originally introduced provided that regulations made under Part 5 would be effective notwithstanding their inconsistency with any domestic or international law ‘whatsoever’.  The Committee are pleased that the Government have now amended the Bill, so it acknowledges that this reference to domestic or international law does not include the Convention rights guaranteed by the Human Rights Act 1998.

However, the Committee are concerned that the Bill still seems to envisage Ministers not being bound by the Human Rights Act duty to act compatibly with Convention rights when making regulations. It also seeks to prevent the courts striking down regulations that are incompatible with human rights. The Committee conclude that these changes undermine human rights protections, which is very hard to reconcile with Government statements that the Bill is compatible with human rights. As such, the Committee recommends that the Bill is amended to ensure that human rights are protected.

Chair's comment

The Chair of the Committee, Ms Harriet Harman QC MP said: 

 “I am sure the Government is aware that this Bill excludes Ministers from their Human Rights Act duty to comply with Convention rights. The Government must also be aware that the Bill may prevent the courts from striking down regulations that are incompatible with human rights. It is therefore difficult to see how the Government can claim this Bill is compatible with human rights. If the Bill is meant to be compatible, which it should be, it requires amendment.”

Further information

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