bill to take away rights reportedly put on hold
The so-called Bill of Rights Bill has been put on hold once more. Humanists UK is glad to hear the news, but they are still very worried about attacks on the Human Rights Act.
Critics of the Bill called it the “Rights Removal Bill” because it tried to eliminate and replace the Human Rights Act of 1998 (HRA). It wanted to get rid of a few parts of the Human Rights Act of 1998 that let ordinary people sue the government when their rights have been violated.
The Bill was first introduced in June 2022. In September, it was put on hold. In November, it was brought back, but it was said to be given less importance. In line with Humanist UK’s response to the Committee’s call for evidence last year, the Joint Committee on Human Rights asked the Government to get rid of the Rights Removal Bill.
But Humanists UK is still very worried that the Human Rights Act is still being attacked. Even though the Rights Removal Bill has been dropped, parts of the Illegal Migration Bill (also known as the Refugee Ban Bill) and the Victims and Prisoners Bill set a dangerous precedent for how human rights protections in the UK could go backward by taking away universal human rights from certain groups of people.
Humanists UK has been leading what is thought to be the largest coalition of human rights groups in the UK. They have gotten over 250 charities, trade unions, and human rights groups to call for the Human Rights Act to be protected.
Andrew Copson, the head of Humanists UK, said, “The Rights Removal Bill is bad legislation, and we and many politicians and civil society groups have called for it to be scrapped in its entirety.” We’re glad to hear that it’s been thrown out, but we’ll keep fighting against the UK’s continued erosion of human rights.
Effects on those who don’t believe
Under the Human Rights Act of 1998, public bodies and the courts can add more words to laws and policies if they need to protect human rights.
In particular, when a law or policy only mentions religion, this must be taken to include non-religious beliefs, even if those words aren’t in the law or policy itself.
So, the Human Rights Act makes it possible to stop laws and policies that are unfair to atheists and agnostics in areas like education, pastoral care, and providing public services without going to court. And if someone does have to go to court, the court can fix the problem without the public authority having to change its policy or Parliament having to change the law.
There have been many times when non-religious people got the same rights as religious people without having to go to court. This includes fighting against the fact that humanists aren’t allowed to be on the boards that make RE curriculums and making sure that prisons and hospitals have humanist and non-religious pastoral care.
Taking away other important protections for human rights
The now-defunct Bill, which was strongly backed by former Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, would have also set up a “permission stage in court,” where people would have to show that they had been hurt in a big way before their claim could go forward.
This is true even though courts already have an admissibility process that protects against frivolous lawsuits by requiring claimants to show their case has a “reasonable chance” of succeeding. Instead of stopping people from wasting the court’s time with silly cases, the Bill would have made it harder for regular people to get justice.
The Bill would also have made it harder for UK courts to communicate with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This change was likely to make the level of protection for UK citizens lower, so more people would go to the Strasbourg court instead of their national courts to get justice. Most claimants can’t afford the extra costs and time it takes to take a case to Strasbourg. This makes it harder for people in the UK to hold their government accountable.