Why the Conservative plan to scrap the European Human Rights Act could be bad news for BME rights in the UK

Guest Blog by Rob Cole, ROTA Volunteer

The Conservative plan to replace the European Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights could be disastrous for BME communities who enjoy the protection granted by European authorities against unjust deportation, discrimination and the inequalities of the British system.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission warns: “The mechanisms for enforcement of any alternative to the Human Rights Act must be accessible and effective.  Unless this is ensured, the rights set out in any new Act would be without real remedy.  This would breach a core legal principle and constitute a regressive step in the protection of fundamental rights.”

Chief Executive Mark Hammond said:“Our view is that any changes to our current human rights framework should not water down the protections contained in the Human Rights Act.  In the year we celebrate the birth of our fundamental freedoms through the Magna Carta, it would be a bitter irony to weaken them.

We are at a crossroads for human rights. One path risks undermining and diminishing our influence and status as a global leader in human rights and civil liberties. The other path will safeguard both our reputation for fairness and moral authority when confronting human rights abuses abroad.

The Commission welcomes a debate on such important issues, but would not support a reversal of the leading global role Britain has long played in protecting and promoting human rights, nor a reduction in the protections of rights that we all currently enjoy under the Human Rights Act.” [1] [2]

The Shadow Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, told the Guardian that the Lords, where the Conservatives do not have a majority, would be within its rights under the Salisbury convention to throw out the measure altogether – since the Tories’ intentions were only set out vaguely in their election manifesto. If the Lords threw out the bill the government would need to use the Parliament Act, probably in 2017, to force the bill on to the statute book without Lords consent. [3]

The European Human Rights Act (EHRA) ensures 18 rights including: right to life, liberty, a fair trial, a family life, and access to the education system, protection against torture and slavery, and freedom of thought, speech and religion. [4]

Replacing the HRA with a British bill of rights could potentially impact the protection of BME communities from discrimination, challenges to freedom and justice. With the Guardian warning that budget cuts will increase the heavy-handedness of the British police, [5] as well as impacting social services and the justice system, the EHRA is essential in protecting the rights of BME communities in the face of informal discrimination and prejudice.


[1] http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/commission-warns-against-%E2%80%98reg...

[2] http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/EN/Reports/Html/157.htm

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/may/22/falconer-scrap-human-rights-a...

[4] http://news.sky.com/story/1490875/human-rights-act-what-you-need-to-know

[5] http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/may/17/police-warn-big-budget-cu...