Our policy work: 

Commission on an UK Bill of Rights

The Human Rights Act

Human rights are about all of us, no matter who we are or where we are from. The UK, with our long-held legal protections for liberties and freedoms, led international work to champion human rights laws in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust.

As the cornerstone of a democratic and fair society, human rights laws provide the the rule book for governments on how they should treat us. In this way human rights are a vital safety-net for us all, setting out the basic minimums that everyone should have simply because we are human. Rather than charity, pity or special interests, human rights are about empowering us to ensure the government plays fair, and each person is treated with equal dignity and respect in their daily life.

The UK’s Human Rights Act provides the foundation which helps to make this promise a reality, ensuring our rights and freedoms are protected by the law of the land. Here at home there is much work to be done to ensure that human rights have meaning in these small places close to home. Now is not the time to go backwards, rather we all have a role in ensuring our leaders deliver on the UK's human rights heritage.

A new UK Bill of Rights?

The current and former governments have both raised the issue of a new Bill of Rights for the UK. BIHR has been cautious about these political discussions because:

  • There is little acknowledgment that our Human Rights Act is already a bill of rights for the UK – it sets out rules for how the state should treat people, providing a system of checks and balances so that government power is not unlimited.
  • BIHR believes in the full range of international human rights and, in principle, we would like to look at building on the Human Rights Act to ensure our human rights protections recognise the rights the UK has agreed to internationally. But, we are concerned that this is not what is on the table. Human rights laws in the UK are not met with respect by many of those with power. Current debates and the Government's recent Commission on a UK Bill of Rights reflect the fact that there are political disagreements about universal and basic rights and the laws which protect them.
  • Having debates about changing the law at this time risks taking our protections backwards instead of forwards. With much misunderstanding about human rights we think it is important to focus on understanding the role of human rights in the UK before we discuss tampering with something as fundamental as our how people’s rights are protected.

The Human Rights Act: evidencing the difference it makes to people