25 March 2021

On Monday 22 March 2021, BIHR responded to the Joint Committee on Human Rights Inquiry into the Independent Human Rights Act Review.

Please click the image below to read our response here:

A summary of our response is available here.

What is the Joint Committee on Human Rights Inquiry into the Human Rights Act Review?

In December 2020, the UK Government created an Independent Human Rights Act Review (The Independent Review). This was set up following the Conservative party’s pledge to “relook” at the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA). We submitted evidence to the Independent Review - click the images below to read the long version and easy read versions of these responses:

   

In response to the Independent Review, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) opened an inquiry. The Inquiry published its own call for evidence, asking for evidence about how the Human Rights Act has been working for people and public bodies in everyday life and work. We submitted a short response, including some of our concerns about the Independent Review, to the JCHR on 19 February.

This week, we sent our full response to the JCHR Inquiry. Read it here:

Our submission brings together BIHR’s expertise from over 20 years of supporting the operation of the Human Rights Act and our evidence gathered from people with lived experience of using the HRA. It is through this expertise and experience-led data gathering that we answered the questions posed by the Committee:

  • The Human Rights Act in everyday ways has led to individuals being more able to enforce their human rights in the UK. This submission makes clear that there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure human rights are made real for everyone, but that this will not be achieved through more legislative review. Our research for the Review shows that 76% of people who responded have either used the Human Rights Act in their life or work to help change things for the better or know someone who has.

  • How easy or difficult it is for different people to enforce their rights depends on a range of factors. Our research shows that some of the barriers to enforcing human rights include levels of awareness of human rights law for people, advocacy groups and public officials, equality and discrimination issues, resource issues within public services, and lack of human rights leadership nationally and locally. None of our research points to the law itself creating any issues with how different people enforce their rights in practice.

  • The operation of the Human Rights Act has made an incredible difference for public authorities. Far from something which is seen as additional bureaucracy, our experience and evidence contained in our full submission shows that public officials consider the Human Rights Act a useful and practical tool for decision-making. During Covid-19, the Human Rights Act has offered a framework for decision-making for public officials which is absent in subordinate legislation, regulations, guidance and policy. Our research reveals that 63% of staff have used the Human Rights Act to help change decisions or policies so they can better support people.

  • The Human Rights Act contains mechanisms that respect the separation of powers between the government (executive), parliament (legislature) and the courts (judiciary). The mechanisms within the Human Rights Act work are intended to ensure that Convention rights are enforceable here at home whilst maintaining the constitutional principles of the UK. This submission makes clear that any review into the operation of the HRA must give full consideration not just to the separation of powers in the UK but to the role of the HRA in devolved administrations.

  • The Human Rights Act strikes the right balance in the relationship between the domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights. This submission shows that this relationship is working well and there is no need to alter the relationship.

  • This submission argues that the current provisions within the Human Rights Act relating to the actions of the UK (or its agents) overseas are appropriate. There is no need to change these provisions.

We hope that our findings will inform any further work carried out by the Joint Committee on Human Rights alongside the work of the Independent Review. Our evidence is grounded in the views of people with lived experience of the Human Rights Act in their lives and work.

Our key findings

These are our key findings from the evidence we sent to the Joint Committee on Human Rights Inquiry into the Human Rights Act Review:

Want to know more about the Human Rights Act? Read our accessible new easy read guide, Your Easy Read Guide to the Human Rights Act by clicking the image below: