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‘New constitution commission must not undo rights,’ Humanists UK tells parliamentary committee

Humanists UK has stated that there should be no rolling back on either rights currently held under the Human Rights Act (HRA) or access to justice through the judicial review – the mechanism that allows all people to legally challenge the decisions of public authorities. Humanists UK made these comments in response to a call for evidence by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC).

As part of their manifesto at the 2019 general election, the Conservative Party committed to ‘update the Human Rights Act and administrative law’ and to launch a Constitution, Democracy, and Rights Commission to conduct this. PACAC is investigating how this Commission should be formed and what areas of our constitution, democracy, and rights it should examine.

Concerned that the Commission could be used as a pretext to further an agenda to weaken our human rights and constitutional safeguards, Humanists UK has called for the work of the Commission to be based on the following principles: complete independence from government; adopting an evidence-based approach; upholding the rule of law; ensuring the accountability of government; protecting legal aid and access to justice for all, and non-regression on rights. Further, Humanists UK submitted evidence that the main purpose of the Commission should be to examine ways in which our constitution, democracy, and rights can not only be protected but enhanced and further embedded throughout society, including via the school curriculum.

Humanists UK also gave evidence that the Commission should examine the role of religion and secularism in our constitution, including the establishment of the Church of England, the right of bishops to sit in the House of Lords and the democratic impact of parliamentary prayers.

Humanists UK has led a coalition of over 100 charities, trade unions, and human rights organisations in calling for the protection of judicial review and human rights.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘The Human Rights Act and judicial review are essential safeguards of individual liberty and such protections are a prerequisite for any democratic society. It is paramount that any review or recommendation for change to our human rights framework does not regress or weaken citizens’ protections.

‘We are concerned about the proposed Commission because the Government has continued to propagate negative rhetoric about both the Act and access to judicial review. We have called upon the Committee to ensure that the Commission’s approach is evidence-based and that it is independent of Government.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read more about our coalition protecting human rights.

Read more about our work on secularism.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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