Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael yesterday led a parliamentary debate to urge the Government to reconsider plans to repeal the Human Rights Act (HRA) which threatens UK-wide standards of human rights.
Speaking in the debate, Mr Carmichael warned that the plans to scrap the Act could lead to a constitutional crisis in the UK as the HRA is “hardwired into the devolution settlements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”. The Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland required a “massive leap of faith” from all sides, and it was the assurances over human rights which were central to the peace settlement.
Whilst the application of the HRA was not perfect, Mr Carmichael stressed that “it has offered many of our fellow citizens a basic, fundamental right to respect and dignity in their dealings with government and other public bodies”. The UK has a “tremendous standing” on international human rights and would be sending out the wrong signal by withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Commenting after the debate Mr Carmichael said:
“The Government have not put serious thought into their plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights.
“The constitutional and legal impact of their plans were discussed by a number of MPs – including prominent Conservatives – in this debate, and we are no clearer on the Government’s true intentions. We still need answers on fundamental questions about the effect that repealing the HRA would have on the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We cannot drift towards different standards of human rights across the UK.
“Additionally the issue of the UK’s continued membership of the ECHR was unaddressed by the Justice Minister. I do not want to see the UK join the undistinguished club that is Belarus - outside the ECHR and marginalised in the debate about international human rights.
“It is clear that the Government have lots of work to do in persuading their own backbenchers of the case for reform.”