Weekly Update 8 July 2022
Weekly Update 08 July 2022
How will the turmoil at the highest levels of the UK Government this week affect the Rule of Law? A Conservative Party leadership election will soon be held, following scandal-hit Prime Minister Boris Johnson's promise to step down. One of the main topics that leadership candidates will have to address is the restoration of standards in public life, and hopefully this will bring some attention to Rule of Law issues.
The former Health Secretary Sajid Javid MP, whose resignation from the Cabinet this week in protest at Mr Johnson's leadership precipitated dozens of further ministerial resignations, told the House of Commons that the Government needed to work to regain public trust. He called for a renewed commitment to fundamental values including "social justice, enabled by conventions and the rule of law". Mr Javid also emphasised the importance of public institutions for sustaining a healthy democracy. These are critical issues for the leadership debates that lie ahead, and it will be interesting to see what concrete proposals candidates make for safeguarding and strengthening democratic values.
While the country waits for a new Prime Minister, another critical question is what will happen to elements of the Government's legislative programme that pose risks to the Rule of Law. The expectation is that no major policy changes should be made during such an interim period, and Boris Johnson is reported to have assured the Cabinet that he will observe this traditional restraint as long as he remains as a caretaker PM. But what does this mean for the so-called "Bill of Rights" Bill, the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill and other legislative proposals that are already before Parliament? As we have argued in previous Weekly Updates, these measures raise serious concerns about respect for human rights and other aspects of the Rule of Law.
Similar concerns are increasingly being expressed at European level. The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, published an extremely critical statement following her visit to the UK last week entitled "United Kingdom: backsliding on human rights must be prevented".
Commissioner Mijatović observed that the Bill of Rights Bill threatens to undermine the effective protection of ECHR rights, stating that the Bill "sends the wrong signal beyond the country's borders at a time when human rights are under pressure throughout Europe". She also pointed to the inroads that the government has already made into refugee and asylum rights, as well as rights to public protest and protections for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. Her statement expresses serious concern about the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, which may bring about impunity for those implicated in the Troubles, and contradicts the demands of many victims and a broad consensus of political groups in Northern Ireland. Many of her concerns reflect problems that we have highlighted through the Bingham Centre's Rule of Law Monitoring of Legislation project.
This week, the Bingham Centre continued its engagement with the "Bill of Rights" Bill. Our Director, Murray Hunt, gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights in Parliament, and our Senior Fellow, Lucy Moxham, published a blog which considers how the Bill threatens to undermine the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.
We also bring you news of a conference presentation by our Research Fellow Oliver Garner, who discussed possible resolutions for the contentious topic of the difficulty for EU Member State courts to reconcile certain provisions of EU law with their national constitutions. Furthermore, our Modern Slavery PEC update provides information on a new funding call for projects that use data science to address modern slavery issues. Finally, we remind you of an upcoming event on 15th July, organised by the Bingham Centre's Senior Fellow, Julinda Beqiraj: The 22nd BIICL Annual WTO Conference. Climate Change: Border Carbon Adjustment (BCA) Approaches and the WTO, which will take place online.
You can read the whole Weekly Update here.