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Joint Letter on Protecting Section 3 of the Human Rights Act

Section 3 of the Human Rights Act is a key part of making human rights real every day, but the UK Government has attempted to get rid of it through three recent Bills. We led a group of 46 civil society organisations in writing to the Joint Committee on Human Rights to raise our concerns.

Section 3 of our Human Rights Act means that government and the public bodies making decisions about our lives must apply other laws and policies in a way that upholds our rights so far as possible. When this doesn't happen, individuals can seek justice in the courts. Whilst courts can never overrule an Act of Parliament, where possible they can apply other laws compatibly with human rights. This is a key form of accountability that makes us all stronger in a healthy democracy.

Yet the UK Government has tried to write Section 3 out of three controversial Bills that it is rushing through Parliament: the Rights Removal Bill, the Refugee Ban Bill and the Victims & Prisoners Bill.

Our Joint Letter

We have serious concerns about what weakening or removing Section 3 would mean for human rights protections for everyone in the UK and the precedent it sets that human rights are at the whim of the government of the day.

On 19th April 2023, we led a group of 46 civil society organisations in writing to the Joint Committee on Human Rights (the Parliamentary Committee responsible for issues relating to human rights in the UK). We urged them to:

  • take a watching brief on this matter;
  • raise this issue in Parliament as appropriate, including in letters and evidence sessions with relevant Ministers; and
  • be alert to similar provisions when conducting all inquiries and legislative scrutiny

The JCHR's Response

On Tuesday 30th May, the JCHR responded to our letter, saying "the Committee is aware of current government proposals regarding section 3 of the HRA, and is looking carefully at the Government's proposed reforms."

The JCHR highlighted two references to Section 3 in its recent work including in its report on the Rights Removal Bill and its call for evidence on the Refugee Ban Bill.

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