Today, the House of Lords Constitution Committee took evidence from Michael Gove, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. Following are a few bullet-points on the proposed “British Bill of Rights”:
- The forthcoming consultation on a “British Bill of Rights“ would consist of several open-ended questions and was currently in circulation among officials, prior to publication in the New Year.
- The consultation would include, at the particular request of the Prime Minister, a look at the issue of an ultimate “backstop” court and whether or not the Supreme Court should be that body – though whether or not UKSC should, in fact, be the ultimate “backstop” was an enormously complex issue on which the Government had to tread carefully.
- The Government was trying to create a framework that would have the widest possible support.
- He suggested that the “good name” of human rights had been tarnished and, in answer to a question from Lord Lester, said that the aim of the consultation was to strengthen human rights, not to weaken them: he was clear that the new “British Bill of Rights” would strengthen rights of minorities but would not protect those whom he described as “unmeritorious”.
- The rights enshrined in the ECHR were admirable but their enforcement inevitably varied between states parties of the Council of Europe; for example, it would be possible for the UK to be more specific about the right to trial by jury and the value of freedom of speech.
- No new legislation would be introduced in the meantime to resolve the political standoff between Parliament and the ECtHR over prisoners’ voting rights; and any parliamentary vote on the issue would be after the consultation had been published.
- Parliamentary sovereignty had been more important for human rights than any other institution he could think of.
- It was an open question as to whether or not the Sewel Convention would apply to the Bill.
You can watch the proceedings here.