Raab: New Human Rights reforms will 'strengthen British rights' with 'common sense'

14 December 2021, 00:19 | Updated: 14 December 2021, 08:53

The Deputy Prime Minister told Nick Ferrari about his plans to overhaul human rights laws to prevent "abuses of the system"
The Deputy Prime Minister told Nick Ferrari about his plans to overhaul human rights laws to prevent "abuses of the system". Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

The Justice Secretary is set to announce new plans to "strengthen British rights", amid reforms to the Human Rights Act.

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Dominic Raab has said the reforms, which will be set out in the Commons on Tuesday, will prevent "abuses of the system" and add a "healthy dose of common sense" to the interpretation of legislation and rulings.

The Justice Secretary told LBC he was "looking forward" to putting forward his plans.

"I think [freedom of speech] is a good example of a human right we should strengthen," he told Nick Ferrari at Breakfast.

"It's a quintessentially British freedom, it is the liberty that guards all of the others, and we have seen it eroded in recent years by a combination [of things].

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"I think under EU law you had the right to be forgotten, we've seen incrementally principles of continental-style privacy approaches to legal protections introduced, which is not really the tradition in this country… and I think there is also a sense that there are some issues and debates that have been rendered off-limits which is wrong."

Mr Raab said he believed in "respectful, robust" debate and said it must be protected - something he said the Bill of Rights could do.

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The new measures are expected to "restore Parliament's role as the ultimate decision-maker" on laws affecting the UK, "allowing more scope to decide how we interpret rulings from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg".

Speaking about the reforms, the Ministry of Justice said: "It will restore a common-sense approach in vital areas such the UK's ability to deport foreign criminals, like drug dealers and terrorists, who too often exploit human rights laws to avoid deportation.

"The proposals achieve this by restricting the rights available to those subject to deportation orders, strengthening the existing legal framework, or limiting the grounds on which a deportation decision can be overturned."

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Why don't you like the Human Rights Act, Mr Raab?

After a three-month consultation on what has been named the 'Bill of Rights' will be launched at the same time.

Whilst Domanic Raab said: "Our plans for a 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."

According to the Government, it is estimated that as many as 70 per cent of successful human rights challenges are brought by foreign national offenders who cite a right to family life in the first instance when appealing against deportation orders.

The Government said it still intends to adhere to the ECHR, with Mr Raab telling MPs last month there was a "clear argument" to retain it, but a "very strong case for an overhaul of the procedural framework of the Human Rights Act".

But the new plans have been described as a "blatant, unashamed power grab" by human rights groups who disagree with the reforms.

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Martha Spurrier, director at human rights group Liberty, said: "This plan to reform the Human Rights Act is a blatant, unashamed power grab from a Government that wants to put themselves above the law. They are quite literally rewriting the rules in their favour so they become untouchable."

Accusing the Government of "systematically shutting down all avenues of accountability through a succession of rushed and oppressive Bills", she added: "The Human Rights Act protects all of us. We lose it at our peril.

"It is an essential law that allows us to challenge public authorities when they get it wrong and has helped secure justice on everything from the right to life to the right to free speech."

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Sacha Deshmukh, the chief executive of Amnesty International, said human rights are not "sweets" ministers can "pick and choose from" and the "aggressive" attempt to "roll-back" the laws needs to be stopped.

He added: "If ministers move ahead with plans to water down the Human Rights Act and override judgments with which they disagree, they risk aligning themselves with authoritarian regimes around the world."