The Government has announced in today’s Queen’s Speech that it will ‘bring forward proposals for a Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act’, with pre-legislative scrutiny expected to occur over the next year before a Bill is introduced later in the life of the Parliament. The announcement represents a reversal from what was widely reported in the build-up to the Speech, namely that the Government would announce legislation to repeal the Act within the next three months, but maintains the same course of action at a slower pace. The British Humanist Association (BHA), which has as one of its charitable objects the advancement of human rights (and specifically the right to freedom of belief) has expressed concern at any potential weakening of the UK’s human rights framework.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘It is very welcome that there will be no immediate repeal of the Human Rights Act within the first one hundred days of this Parliament, as was widely rumoured. It is also welcome that the Government is taking time to consult on its course of action and we look forward to contributing to this consultation. So far no convincing case for amendment of the current human rights settlement has been made and we will scrutinise any proposals that are made for any tendency they may have to weaken that settlement. Human rights are vital in guaranteeing democracy, ensuring freedom of speech, thought and expression, and enabling freedom of religion and belief.’
Other items announced of interest to humanists include measures aimed at tackling extremism and increasing surveillance, and the Education and Adoption Bill, which will make it easier for the Government to convert underperforming schools to Academies.
The Speech sets the legislative agenda for the next twelve months, and the BHA will be working in partnership with the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) on matters of common interest.
Mr Copson continued, ‘We were sad to see a number of excellent humanist MPs depart from Parliament after the General Election, including stalwarts such as the Liberal Democrats Julian Huppert and Ian Swales, and the Labour MP Michael Connarty. Their contributions will be sorely missed, but we are optimistic we will find other ways to work together over the coming years. We are also looking forward to working with new MPs and peers, with several newly elected MPs having already agreed to join the group.’
For further information, please contact Campaigns Manager Richy Thompson on 020 7324 3072.
Read the Queen’s Speech proposals in full: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/430029/queens-speech-briefing-pack.pdf
Read more about the BHA’s work on human rights and equality: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/
The BHA is part of the British Institute of Human Rights’ Human Rights Alliance and has been supporting coordinated efforts to keep the Human Rights Act.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.