The Welsh Government has expressed “significant concerns” about UK government plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights.

Jane Hutt, Minister for Social Justice, and Mick Antoniw, Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution, have published a joint statement setting out the Welsh Government’s belief that "people’s rights should not be weakened".

During Senedd questions this afternoon, Mr Antoniw said that the UK government was "moving towards an increasingly authoritarian framework."

The Human Rights Act sets out minimum standards for how people should be treated by public bodies, enshrining in law rights including family life, privacy, and freedom of assembly.

The UK government has published a consultation seeking views on replacing the Act, with Justice Secretary Dominic Raab claiming any new Bill of Rights will "strengthen typically British rights like freedom of speech and trial by jury, while preventing abuses of the system and adding a healthy dose of common sense."

In the joint statement, published this afternoon, Jane Hutt, Minister for Social Justice, said: “The Human Rights Act sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone in the UK is entitled to.

"Under the latest proposals a new Bill of Rights would not reflect some of the key principles and protections in the Human Rights Act.

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“We have been clear and consistent that we will not tolerate any dilution of rights and consider it essential that the United Kingdom remains a world leader.

"Safeguarding and advancing human rights remains our priority and we would strongly object to any proposals that threaten that.”

Mick Antoniw, Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution, added: “We have significant concerns about the UK Government’s proposals that weaken rights, for example preventing a court from quashing certain secondary legislation found to be incompatible with a person’s human rights.

"The consultation appears to raise significant issues with regard to accessibility to the courts, the rule of law and the role of the Courts in the application of the law relating to human rights.

“There is also an important constitutional issue at stake. The Human Rights Act is fundamental to Welsh democracy; legislation passed in the Senedd must be compatible with the Act, so any action or change must have the agreement of all of the UK’s national legislatures.”

The Counsel General had sterner words for Westminster in Plenary this afternoon, criticising the "pejorative" language used in the government's consultation document.

"It really does the UK Government no credit when the Lord Chancellor, in referring to this review, says that the purpose of it is to counter 'wokery and political correctness', whatever that means," Mr Antoniw said.

"I have real concerns about the review.

"I have real concerns, for example, about the reference to 'rights inflation' - one of the purposes is to, basically, deal with the fact that we apparently have had a growth of rights, that we therefore have too many rights, and therefore some of our rights have to be restricted.

"When you take the review of human rights, what is also proposed in respect of judicial review, which is about limiting the ability of the courts to challenge the exercise of power — the unlawful exercise of power by Governments — when you look at the Nationalities and Borders Bill, which seeks to give arbitrary rights to take away citizenship from individuals; when you look at the Police, Crime and Sentencing legislation, which seeks to provide substantial restrictions on the freedom to protest... What we have is a government that is moving towards an increasingly authoritarian framework. 

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. If ever there was a time to be eternally vigilant, now is it."

 

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