Government still aims to reform Human Rights Act – Justice Secretary

The Government remains committed to reforming the Human Rights Act, the Justice Secretary has said.

Liz Truss’s Government scrapped plans to introduce the Bill of Rights proposed by former justice secretary Dominic Raab when it took office in September.

But his successor, Brandon Lewis, said on Sunday that he was still exploring “a range of options” to reduce the influence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on UK law.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, he said: “It was our 2019 manifesto that specifically laid out that we will update the Human Rights Act to ensure that there is a proper balance between the rights of individuals and vital national security and effective government.

“We need to be sure to do that in a way that reflects our wish to reduce the ECHR’s influence in our system whilst making sure we retain another manifesto commitment that is hugely important, which is to remain a champion of collective security, the rule of law – which obviously I have a job to protect – as well as human rights, free trade, anti-corruption efforts and the rules-based international system.”

Mr Lewis said he would look particularly at addressing the current law’s requirement for UK courts to follow decisions made by the ECHR in Strasbourg, ensuring that “UK courts have primacy in and for UK law”.

He also said that the Government should “always seek to prioritise” protecting victims and the public from convicted offenders.

Mr Lewis said: “That to me, the protection of the public and looking after victims, has to be key and part of everything we do.

“That also plays into my overall approach, the one I intend to take as the Justice Secretary, which is focusing on, first and foremost, the safety and comfort of convicted offenders never, ever being put over the safety of the public and protecting victims.”