JUSTICE report on devolution and human rights

In early February JUSTICE, the all party law reform organisation, published a report on "Devolution and Human Rights". The report considers political aspirations (particularly from the COnservative party) to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998, replacing the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights with what some refer to as a homegrown Bill of Rights. Such suggestions excite newspapers – primarily tabloids who give their standard Pavlovian responses (usually involving assertions about burglars having too many rights, while complaining about householders not being able to kill them (or at the very least violently assault them) without some form of legal consequence).

The dog that – up until now – hasn't barked in these considerations is how this will impact on the devolution settlements where the powers of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish government have to be exercised in accordance with the ECHR. JUSTICE predicts that "it would be extremely difficult, and probably impossible, for Westminster to legislate for a bill of rights without the approval of the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Irish Assembly."

Roger Smith, Director of JUSTICE, said:

"Repeal or substantial amendment of the Human Rights Act will require changes to the devolution settlements for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is likely to prove a legal and political nightmare.

"The devolution settlement is incredibly complex. The consent of the devolved Parliaments – certainly practically and probably constitutionally – will also be required. This is not a project in which Westminster can go it alone. Any attempt to introduce a UK-wide Bill of Rights would need to be a joint enterprise of all four parts of the UK."

A collection of articles and blog post considering the report are gathered at the UKSC blog here (with thanks to Professor MacQueen for this link).