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British Bill Of Rights Commitment In Queen's Speech Derided For Being Near Identical To Last One

It sounded remarkably familiar.

18/05/2016 13:55 | Updated 18 May 2016

The Queen's Speech pledge to introduce a British Bill of Rights has been labelled "Groundhog Day" for being identical to last year's pledge, after 12 months of inaction and setback for the policy.

The Tories have a manifesto commitment to abolish the Human Rights Act and replace it with a Bill of Rights.

But a slender majority in the Commons, opposition from some of its own MPs and the likelihood of greater opposition in the Lords has prevented it moving forward.

The Government's failure to produce detailed plans has left campaigners wary of the extent of what could happen. It has never been suggested Britain could leave the European Convention on Human Rights - whose protections the HRA introduced to British courts - altogether.

In the speech on Wednesday, the Queen said: "Proposals will be brought forward for a British Bill of Rights."

Last year, she said: "My government will bring forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights."

Lawyer and legal journalist David Allen Green mocked the similarity, saying it showed the government's failure to actually draft plans. 

Labour's Lord Wood called it "the annual Queens Speech pledge to pretend to introduce a British Bill of Rights". Former government lawyer Carl Gardner said the switch from active to passive voice in the speech showed the Government's inaction on the issue.

Journalist Sunny Hundal said it was included only a "sop to the Tory right".

Bella Sankey, Policy Director at human rights campaigning group Liberty, told HuffPost UK: “If today felt like groundhog day, it was because little progress has been made towards a ‘British Bill of Rights’.

"The reality is that the Human Rights Act is a modern Bill of Rights that protects sovereignty and safeguards rights and freedoms across our diverse nations," she added.

"Government cannot repeal it without triggering a constitutional crisis, breaching the Good Friday Agreement and sending a regressive message across the globe.

“Little wonder that opposition is growing within the Conservative Party and across society. While the Prime Minister’s ambition may remain, persuading Parliament to get behind him becomes more difficult by the day.”

 

Amnesty International UK’s Human Rights Act Campaign Manager Laura Trevelyan said the Government needed "to take a hint on this".

She said: "The Government really needs to take the hint on this - there’s very little public appetite for scrapping the Human Rights Act.

"While the Government goes on kicking its un-needed and unloved British Bill of Rights idea into the long grass, wide public opposition to trashing the Human Rights Act is growing ever stronger.

"The Government should give their Bill of Rights plans one final kick into the long grass - and leave them there."

In its briefing note published after The Queen's Speech, the Ministry of Justice said it would "consult fully" on the Bill of Rights.

Speaking in April, Lib Dem peer and human rights barrister Lord Lester said the Government was "hemmed in" in the face of opposition to its plans in parliament.

He told HuffPost UK: "They put something on a manifesto that they thought they would never have honour... When they, beyond their wildest dreams, found they had won power, they were stuck with it."

Chris Bryant, Shadow Leader of the Commons, did not hold back in making his feelings known when the Queen mentioned the British Bill of Rights.

In last year's speech, the Queen, who is reading words written by others, appeared to shoot an "evil" at David Cameron when mentioning the plans to abolish the Human Rights Act.

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