In an interview with PoliticsHome, the Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, has confirmed that the Conservatives’ 2015 manifesto commitment to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 with a “British Bill of Rights”, is on hold – presumably for the remainder of the present Parliament:
“Given that we are leaving the European Union and we will have the Great Repeal Bill going through Parliament, clearly that is going to signify a major constitutional change. So the British Bill of Rights, whilst it remains a commitment, is not something we can do at the same time as we are putting through that Great Repeal Bill. That is going to affect the constitution… it’s important we only do one constitutional reform at a time.”
She also had some supportive words for the judiciary:
“I think the judges of the Supreme Court are people of integrity and impartiality. I meet with them regularly to discuss all kinds of issues and that is very important in my role as Lord Chancellor. I also believe we live in a free society and free democracy and we have a free press. It is very important that politicians don’t get into the business of policing headlines and saying what is acceptable or not acceptable to print. I think the independent judiciary and free press are bulwarks of our freedoms and we need to protect them jealously.”
While the members of the UKSC will no doubt be highly relieved that the person with the statutory duty of upholding judicial independence under s 3 (Guarantee of continued judicial independence) Constitutional Reform Act 2005 believes that they are actually doing their job properly, the Lord Chancellor’s deafening silence after the Daily Mail’s ‘Enemies of the People’ headline will no doubt continue to rankle with many: quicker would have been better. Or, to put it charitably, perhaps she felt torn between her (entirely proper) desire to uphold the freedom of the press and her duty to uphold the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.
As to the “British Bill of Rights”, we must presumably wait and see. [Thanks to the UK Human Rights Blog]