Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has voiced concern in Parliament about the government’s plans with the Human Rights Act as it conducts a review of the law this summer. Mr Carmichael noted the UK’s historic role in developing human rights conventions following the Second World War; some Conservative MPs and ministers have expressed a desire to scrap the Human Rights Act or the European Convention on Human Rights, which was largely written by UK leaders.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“What does the Secretary of State want to achieve with his review? He will be aware that as long as we remain a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, the rights that are available to citizens as a consequence of that cannot be altered. Any changes to the Human Rights Act will just return us to a situation that we had before the Act, and it meant that you could only enforce the remedies for these rights by going to Strasbourg. Is that what the Government wanted to achieve here?”
Responding for the Government, the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland said:
“I’ve been very clear about this, it’s not about changing the fundamental rights themselves, it’s about the way in which the domestic courts implement those rights and interpret them. It’s about the mechanism, if you like. It’s now 20 years since the act came into force, I think it’s right, at this juncture, to give it a careful examination, and that is what this independent review is all about and it will be followed up, as he would expect by the fullest consultation that I know he will play a vigorous part in.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“Given this government’s form on undermining the rule of law and its past threats to scrap the Human Rights Act outright, many of us are justifiably concerned about its intentions with this review. Human rights law is a proud legacy of our country and it is, frankly, unpatriotic that people like Nigel Farage want to be rid of it. These liberal milestones in international law are something we should defend and build upon, not seek to weaken with red tape and restrictions.”