The British Geriatrics Society have joined a broad coalition of 150 organisations from across civil society who are calling on the government to provide pre-legislative scrutiny of the proposed Bill of Rights.

The new Bill of Rights had its first reading in the House of Commons this week (Wednesday) and could replace the current Human Rights Act.

In a statement, the government said that the Bill will ensure courts cannot interpret laws in ways that were never intended by Parliament and will empower people to express their views freely.

At the same time, it will help prevent trivial human rights claims from wasting judges’ time and taxpayer money. A permission stage in court will be introduced requiring people to show they have suffered a significant disadvantage before their claim can go ahead.

Bill of Rights should not be rushed

Justice Minister James Cartlidge stated last week that the government does not intend to submit the Bill of Rights for pre-legislative scrutiny.

In a letter sent to Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, the groups warned that the proposal to repeal and replace the Human Rights Act is a major constitutional step requiring careful and robust consideration and warned of the impact on the rights of individuals should this process be rushed.

The letter said that pre-legislative scrutiny of these plans is made ever more important by the divergence between the proposals and the findings of the independent panel established by the government to review the operation of the Human Rights Act. 

It added: "The panel, chaired by retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Peter Gross, found that the HRA is operating effectively to preserve parliamentary sovereignty and protect individuals’ rights. The Government’s subsequent proposals ignored these findings and pushed vastly beyond the panel’s scope to a position that would be a vast and deeply consequential overhaul of human rights protection in this country.

"The proposed legislation of such constitutional importance and with potentially vast-ranging impact on the rights of individuals and their ability to defend those rights requires careful and robust consideration, which can only be achieved if elected members of Parliament and peers in the House of Lords are given the time and space to fully consider its implications."

Lurch backwards for British justice

The Law Society have said that the Bill will create an acceptable class of human rights abuses in the UK– by introducing a bar on claims deemed not to cause ‘significant disadvantage’.

It added that it was a lurch backwards for British justice. Authorities may begin to consider some rights violations as acceptable, because these could no longer be challenged under the Bill of Rights despite being against the law.

The Relatives & Residents Association, a national charity for older people needing care and the relatives and friends who help them cope, said it was incredibly concerning that the government is seeking to weaken human rights protections so vital to older people needing care.

R&RA’s Director, Helen Wildbore, said: That they are not even willing to submit proposals of such vast constitutional significance to proper Parliamentary review should raise alarm bells for us all. The Human Rights Act is the bedrock of the Care Act, Mental Capacity Act, and care regulation and practice. Any changes must be properly scrutinised to ensure protection of fundamental rights for all who rely on the care system.”