11 December 2022

Labour calls on Raab to abandon Bill of Rights plan

11 December 2022

Labour have urged Dominic Raab to abandon plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a new Bill of Rights.

The Justice Secretary had introduced the controversial Bill during his first stint in office but it was then shelved by Liz Truss’s short-lived government.

Shadow Justice Secretary Steve Reed and Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Kyle, in a letter to Mr Raab, urged him to “scrap” the plan.

The pair warn that it would have a detrimental impact on the UK justice system, prevent the conviction of foreign terrorists and upset the foundation for the Good Friday Agreement.

They also suggest scrapping the Human Rights Act would “weaken the protection it offers to victims of crime, including severely undermining commitments to prevent violence against women”.

The two Labour frontbenchers argue that the plan “threatens to slow down or even prevent the conviction and potential removal of foreign terrorists, by forcing the security services to pursue them in the European rather than British courts.

“This could lead to cases collapsing, as evidence cannot be given to the European Court of Human Rights in secret and the UK’s security services would not wish to expose their agents or operating methods in open court to those who wish to harm our country.”

Arguing that the 1998 agreement and the Human Rights Act are “intertwined”, the Labour MPs tell the justice secretary that “delivering the agreement is one of Labour’s proudest achievements in Government and the ECHR and the Human Rights Act are the scaffolding that upholds it”.

“The Bill of Rights, with its threats to the basic legal protections enjoyed by the British people, the damage to the UK’s reputation for respecting international law and treaties, and the threat it poses to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and our obligations, is intolerable.”

Even if the Bill receives support in the Commons, it is likely to face opposition in the House of Lords, as it goes beyond what was promised in the 2019 Tory party manifesto, which was to “update” the Human Rights Act.

It is not only Labour that has concerns about the Bill, which Mr Raab has promised will “strengthen free speech, deport foreign national offenders and restore some common sense to our justice system”.

Former justice secretary and Tory MP Sir Robert Buckland told Times Radio on Sunday it would provide “a log of angst for very little result”.

“The Government needs this like a hole in the head at the moment, I’d pull it and do something far more measured and tight as a reform of the Human Rights Act.”

A Government spokesperson said: “The Government is committed to upholding the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.

“We are committed to protecting human rights and will always continue to champion them internationally and at home.”

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