The Labour party is to establish a human rights taskforce as the government prepares to publish its draft proposals to replace the Human Rights Act.
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn (pictured) asked human rights organisations at a Labour Campaign for Human Rights meeting last night to put forward ‘what you want us to do come 2020... so we have got ideas and policies ready to go’.
The meeting was attended by representatives from Unicef, Liberty, the Trades Union Congress, Amnesty, Justice, the British Institute of Human Rights, the Bar Council, the Equally Ours campaign and the Society of Labour Lawyers.
Corbyn said it was ‘sad’ that, at the start of the 21st century, ‘we’re having to have a public debate about defending something so obvious as the European Convention on Human Rights’.
Corbyn said he wanted to ‘promote’ the idea of human rights in schools and colleges ‘so the next generation coming up understand the victories we won in the past did not come out of thin air.
‘That’s how our rights were won and that’s how they could be lost.’
Labour’s taskforce will be chaired by Andy Slaughter MP, shadow minister for human rights.
Slaughter told the meeting the objective was to ‘try to capture the public’s imagination’ but explain in parliament that human rights was ‘not just about lawyers’.
‘It’s about the Human Rights Act 1998, to bring those rights home, and being that bridge between international and domestic rights,’ he said.
The taskforce will include shadow foreign and commonwealth minister Diana Johnson, shadow Cabinet Office minister Louise Haigh, shadow secretary of state for women and equalities Kate Green, former director of public prosecutions and shadow Home Office minister Sir Keir Starmer QC and former shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry.
The Ministry of Justice said in September that it would bring forward proposals for a British bill of rights this autumn.
A 12-week consultation is expected to be opened before the end of the year, the Gazette understands. The bill could be introduced before the next queen’s speech.
Harriet Harman QC MP, chair of the joint committee on human rights, told the meeting of speculation that there might not be a separate bill. Instead, clauses may be ‘tucked into another bill’.
Reforms could amount to a change of name – from ‘convention’ rights to ‘constitutional’ rights, she said.
Harman said the committee had not received ‘any answers’ from justice secretary Michael Gove to five questions about the proposed bill.
The government was asked to confirm if it had officially ruled out withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights.
It was also asked to confirm if it was ruling out ending the UK obligation under international law ‘to abide by the final judgment of the European Court of Human Rights’ in any case to which it is party.