Bill of Rights for the UK? Second consultation launched July 2012
2 August 2012
The Commission on a Bill of Rights established as an Independent Commission by the Government on 18 March 2011 is due to report by the end of 2012. The terms of reference are to "investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in UK law, and protects and extend our liberties. It will examine the operation and implementation of these obligations, and consider ways to promote a better understanding of the true scope of these obligations and liberties".
Importantly the Commission has no scope to recommend a withdrawal from the European Convention.
The Commission is tasked with consulting with the public, judiciary and devolved administrations and legislatures. The first consultation was initiated with a discussion paper published on 5 August 2011 with a deadline for response of 11 November 2011. The Commission received 900 - broadly negative - responses. Only a quarter of responses advocated that a Bill of Rights should replace the Human Rights Act, and just under half were against.
A second consultation was published on 11 July 2012 with a deadline of 30 September 2012 for responses. This repeated the previous consultation on the fundamental question of whether a UK Bill of Rights would or would not be beneficial but was expanded to include what form any such Bill might take.
There are concerns that the deadline for the closure of this second consultation is dangerously close to the end of 2012 when the Commission are mandated to report on their conclusions. There is also some criticism that the second consultation fails to add anything novel but is late in the day and could be construed as a result of the mostly negative responses to the first consultation.
However it will give a further chance for input into the Commission's final report and recommendations which are awaited with anticipation...