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No case for reform of the Human Rights Act, says Joint Committee on Human Rights

4 March 2021

Today the Joint Committee on Human Rights has published its response to the Government’s Independent Human Rights Act Review, which concludes that the HRA has had an enormously positive impact on the enforcement of human rights in the UK, and finds that there is no case for reform under the terms of reference of the Government’s review.

The Government has set up an Independent Review of the Human Rights Act (HRA). The JCHR launched a call for evidence in relation to the Government’s Independent Review of the HRA on 15 January 2021 The Committee has today written to the Chair of the Government’s Review, Sir Peter Gross, with its initial findings, in response to the Review’s call for evidence which closes this week. The Committee will take further evidence and publish a full Report in due course.

On the basis of evidence heard to date, the Committee have found that there is no compelling case for reform of the HRA under the Independent Review’s Terms of Reference.

The JCHR found that the legislation:

  • Respects parliamentary sovereignty;
  • Does not draw the UK courts into making decisions which should be made by Parliament and Government;
  • Provides an important mechanism which allows individuals to enforce their rights, which would be impossible for most people, were it to require the great expense and years of delay of going to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg;
  • Reduces the likelihood of the UK Government being found in breach of the Convention by the ECtHR by enabling the UK courts to rule on Convention rights, which they do in a way which is respected by and helpful to the ECtHR;
  • Helps the ECtHR by providing greatly valued UK judicial input into European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) jurisprudence;
  • Improves the work of the criminal justice system and other agencies by instilling a “human rights culture” in training and guidance

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

“The key thing about the Human Rights Act is that it has meant UK courts judging human rights rather than only European judges. Giving our courts a role in enforcing the rights given in the European Convention on Human Rights, has enabled individuals to enforce their rights, has added a UK judicial perspective on the ECHR and meant that there are now hardly any European Court rulings against the UK Government. The attention to human rights in guidance and training has made the ECHR rights a reality in a way they never were before. Evidence to us confirms that the Human Rights Act has worked well. Our message to the Government Review of the Human Rights Act is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”.”

Further information

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