Much to the complete astonishment of many, the newly elected Tory government in the UK has pledged to abolish the existing Human Rights act. So who will lead the charge on this?
Michael Gove, the former education secretary, is to be the new Justice Secretary.
Here is a test for you – Randomly pick any UK teacher, ring them up and ask what they think of Michael Gove, and see what is said … or you could just check the opening paragraph of his Wikipedia page …
At its 2013 conference, Gove was criticised by the National Association of Head Teachers, whose members condemned the climate of bullying, fear and intimidation they said he had created during his time as Education Secretary. The conference passed a vote of no confidence in his policies.Votes of no confidence were also passed by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, National Union of Teachers and NASUWT at their conferences in 2013.
Given the observation that past behaviour is often an indicator of future behaviour, I’d be very very nervous about this latest career move by him.
OK, so what is the existing 1998 Human Rights act all about?
Firstly, it folds the European Convention on Human Rights into British law, or to translate, if you have a human rights problem, you don’t need to go to Brussels, you can get justice in a UK court.
It also puts in place a requirement for public bodies such as the NHS and Police to conform to basic human rights.
What rights exactly?
- Article 2 – right to life
- Article 3 – right not to be tortured or subjected to inhumane treatment
- Article 4 – right not to be held as a slave
- Article 5 – right to liberty and security of the person
- Article 6 – right to a fair trial
- Article 7 – right not be retrospectively convicted for a crime
- Article 8 – right to a private and family life
- Article 9 – right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
- Article 10 – right to freedom of expression
- Article 11 – right to freedom of assembly and association
- Article 12 – right to marriage
- Article 14 – right not to be discriminated against
… and more.
So what is the plan?
Abolish the existing Human Rights Act and replace it with British Bill of Rights. The rather obvious immediate effect is to break the current relationship with the European court of Human rights.
We do not yet know the precise details, nor do we know how watered down it will be so there is a considerable degree of ongoing concern. We will all find out more details during the Queens speech on 28th May (yes just 2 weeks away).
What do others think of this?
Scotland says “No” and that cranks up the heat on this little drama …
The Scottish government has said that it will withhold legislative consent on the Conservative proposals to scrap the 1998 Human Rights Act, as it emerged that the SNP has already had informal discussions with Tory backbenchers who oppose the move.
The social justice secretary, Alex Neil, told the Holyrood chamber on Tuesday afternoon: “The Scottish government’s position is that implementation of the Conservative government’s proposals would require legislative consent and that this parliament should make clear that such consent will not be given.”
Tory plans to repeal the act and replace it with a UK bill of rights could lead to a “complete standoff” between Westminster and Holyrood, according to a Scottish government source.
Scrapping the Human Rights Act would be a breach of the Good Friday agreement that sealed the peace process in Northern Ireland, a Belfast-based human rights organisation has said.
The Conservative government’s plans to ditch the HRA would also violate an international treaty as the agreement in 1998 was an accord between two sovereign states – the UK and the Irish Republic, according to the committee on the administration of justice.
Is anybody happy about any of this?
Actually yes, the entire body of teachers within the UK is now truly delighted to have Michael Grove out of their hair.
- You can find the text of the existing 1998 Human Rights Act here.
- The bit you will be really interested in are the articles … these bits … of specific interest will be Article 9 (Freedom of Thought), and Article 10 (Freedom of Expression).
Article 9 Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
1 Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
2 Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Article 10 Freedom of expression
1 Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
2 The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.