1.The Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law. It came fully into force two years later, in 2000. Since its introduction the HRA has been subject to four reviews by incumbent Governments, including one which is currently underway. The Conservative Party’s manifesto for the 2019 general election, on which the Government was elected, included a commitment to “update the Human Rights Act and administrative law to ensure that there is a proper balance between the rights of individuals, our vital national security and effective government”. The Government’s Independent Human Rights Act Review Panel was appointed in January 2021 and is expected to publish its report later this year.
2.We launched our own inquiry into the Government’s Independent Human Rights Act Review in January 2021. We wanted to know more about how the Act was operating for those who rely on it when they deliver public services and make decisions about how we are governed. We therefore asked the following questions in our call for evidence:
3.We wrote to the Independent Human Rights Act Review on 4 March 2021 in response to their consultation. We used the evidence we had heard and received to that point along with our experience of conducting thematic inquiries, legislative scrutiny, and holding the Government to account on Human Rights matters, to form our view that we did not see that “any compelling case for reform or amendment of the HRA in response to the Review’s consultation questions has been made”. We continued with our own inquiry. This report is the result of that inquiry.
4.The Independent Review has undertaken its work at a time of profound distress and difficulty for many as the covid-19 pandemic has affected us all. The human rights and the protections afforded by the Human Rights Act have become particularly relevant. Our right to a family life, our right to privacy, and our freedom to associate with others have become increasingly pertinent as has, sadly, the right to life, and the duty of the state to protect lives. During this time, the Human Rights Act has provided a mechanism for decision makers in Government and on the front-line delivering services to balance rights. It has provided recourse to the courts when things have gone wrong. This has shown us the strengths and weaknesses of the Human Rights Act and its implementation.
5.Our findings are based on the evidence we have heard, and this Committee’s experience of holding the government to account on human rights issues. We received 82 written submissions in response to our call for evidence, and took oral evidence from 16 witnesses. We are grateful to all those who took part in our inquiry.
1 Letter to Sir Peter Gross, Chair, Independent Review of the Human Rights Act, , dated 4 March 2021
2 Letter to Sir Peter Gross, Chair, Independent Review of the Human Rights Act, , dated 4 March 2021