“Substituting a British Bill of Rights and responsibilities for the Human Rights Act will displace adjudication to Strasbourg” says Chairman of the Bar

DESMOND Browne QC, Chairman of the Bar, has spoken on the theme of ‘Human rights under threat abroad and at home’ at a fringe meeting at Labour Party Conference on Sunday.

The meeting, organised by the Society of Labour Lawyers and the Bar Council, brought together a distinguished panel of speakers, consisting of Lord Bach, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice, Beatrice Mtetwa of the Zimbabwean Bar, and Desmond Browne QC, Chairman of the Bar.


The Chairman of the Bar highlighted how replacing the Human Rights Act with a new Bill of Rights and Responsibilities will not bring an end to tensions between ministers and judges over the practical application of legal measures to uphold human rights. Instead, a new Bill of Rights and Responsibilities would see the tension move from UK courts to the European Court of Human Rights, and would remove the benefit of the UK judgement in informing the decision reached at Strasbourg. The Chairman’s comments are a response what has been a renewed interest in potentially repealing or subsuming the Human Rights Act into a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

The Chairman of the Bar also touched upon the international dimension, where he will point to the significance of the rule of law, and how states must comply with the rule of law if rights are to be upheld. Noting the presence of Beatrice Mtetwar, he highlighted how, in the case of some states, such as Zimbabwe and Burma, the assault on the rule of law is intrinsic to the erosion of basic human rights. The Bar Council’s presence at the Labour Party conference is part of a series of meetings and speaking engagements, led by Desmond Browne QC, taking place at all three main Party Conferences, beginning with the Liberal Democrat Conference in Bournemouth last week and ending with the Conservative Conference in Manchester next week.

Commenting on Sunday’s fringe meeting, Desmond Browne QC, the Chairman of the Bar, said “I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to this important discussion on human rights, at a time when close consideration is being paid to the future of the Human Rights Act. Upholding the rule of law must lie at the heart of these considerations, and replacing the Human Rights Act with a new Bill of Rights and Responsibilities has the potential to undermine this fundamental objective. The Bar will continue to engage with politicians to provide insight to inform their decision making on issues impacting upon human rights both at home and abroad.”

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