What to read on the Tory proposals for a “Bill of Rights”

This will be an updated round-up of useful links on the Tory proposals for a “Bill of Rights” to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 (the “Act”).  The Act gives effect in UK law to the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”).

New additions are marked [ADD….].

Key materials

The Human Rights Act 1998 (which is quite short and readable), with the relevant ECHR rights at schedule 1.

The Conservative policy paper, which was accompanied by a press release.

Council of Europe statement on the proposals.


Legal commentary

There has so far been no detailed legal commentary in support of the proposals.


There are so far few “non-legal” defences of the proposals with any substance – most repeat the Conservative Party’s press release.

Conservative MEP and journalist Dan Hannan’s post is the best defence so far.

[ADD – this is an engaging argument in favour of the principle of a domestic Bill of Rights by Guglielmo Verdirame at the Spectator.]


Legal commentary

The starting point for discussion of any attack on the Act and ECHR is always the late Lord Bingham’s important 2009 speech.

A legal opinion by two QCs –  “In our view those proposals are wholly unworkable, legally contradictory and inherently inconsistent.”

Carl Gardner’s (1) annotations to the policy paper and (2) his detailed critique – “…the noise and drama of the policy isn’t backed up by its substance. If the acid test is whether the plan would prevent another Abu Qatada or prison votes row – then it fails”.

Analysis by Dr Mark Elliott of Cambridge University – “the present proposals…fail adequately to engage with fundamental aspects of our present constitutional architecture and are built upon a misleading analysis of the legal context”.

Angela Patrick at the UK Human Rights Blog: Incoherent, incomplete and disrespectful: The Conservative plans for human rights – “The proposals are incoherent in their consideration of domestic law, incomplete in their engagement with the devolved constitution and disrespectful to the UK’s commitments in international law.”

Critique by Isabella Sankey of the campaigning group Liberty – “The proposals are legally illiterate, politically provocative and designed to put us on a collision course with the Court of Human Rights”.

Guardian report on the reaction to the proposals, including quotations containing the severe criticism from Tory QCs Kenneth Clarke (Chris Grayling’s predecessor as Lord Chancellor) and Dominic Grieve (former Attorney-General).


Nick Cohen at the Observer on the confused politics behind the proposals.

Peter Oborne at the Telegraph – Conservatives should think very carefully before ditching the ECHR –  “This is potentially a wretched moment in the history not just of the Conservative Party but also of Britain”.

[ADD: from 2009, this by Jesse Norman (now a Conservative MP) and Peter Oborne is magnificent: Churchill’s Legacy – the Conservative case for the Human Rights Act.]

Jessica Elgot at the Huffington Post – 10 Holes And Howlers In The New Tory Plans For Human Rights Law

Excellent Daily Mirror article with practical examples of what the Act “has done for us”.

Joshua Rozenberg at the Guardian – “Tory plans for European human rights convention will take UK back 50 years”

Guardian editorial – “a confused and dangerous jumble of political prejudice and legislative foolishness”.

Jonathan Freedland at the Guardian – “Scrapping human rights law is an act of displaced fury”.

[ADD – a good survey article at the Legal Gap by Oliver Carter.]

[ADD – a family solicitor’s view, by David Burrows.]

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