Rights Removal Bill “shelved”
By Isobel Ingham-Barrow
As civil society were gearing up for the second reading of the Rights Removal Bill in the House of Commons on Monday 12th September, it emerged that the bill has been “shelved”.
For an overview of where the Rights Removal Bill has come from and what it contains, read our explainer here.
While the shelving of the bill provides a moment for celebration and relief, we have to ask two important questions:
- How has this happened?
- What happens next?
How has this happened?
This is a victory for the countless organisations and activists that have campaigned against this monstrous bill since it was first proposed in the Government’s consultation paper back in December 2021. Just days earlier, MPs returned from recess to a joint briefing from 123 cross-sector organisations demanding that they vote against the bill. Hopefully, the massive mobilisation of civil society against the bill has given the Government and the new Prime Minister genuine pause.
However, there is also room for a healthy dose of cynicism…
In the midst of a cost of living crisis, it may not have been politically strategic for Liz Truss’ first act as Prime Minister to have been to push such an incoherent and unpopular bill through Parliament. Meanwhile, with the bill’s champion, Dominic Raab, no longer in the Cabinet, maybe there is more political scope to acknowledge the extent of the bill’s shortcomings.
So, what happens next?
It is difficult to predict what the Government’s next moves might be regarding the Rights Removal Bill, however, it would be very surprising if the bill is truly dead and gone.
The Government has “shelved” the bill; it has not been “scrapped”. So, it could come back some time in the future.
If it does come back, what might it look like?
1. It comes back largely unchanged: This could certainly happen if the reason for its shelving is to do with the new Prime Minister’s immediate priorities as she enters office. If so, perhaps we will see it reappear after her first 100 days have passed.
2. It returns in a more polished state: Considering how messy the bill is in its current form, the Government could use the next few months to tidy up the language and the more problematic clauses while leaving the overall intent of the bill intact.
3. It is redrafted entirely: If the bill is completely overhauled we could see some parts dropped, other parts strengthened, and new clauses inserted. In other words, anything could happen. We could see a bill that simply adds amendments to the Human Rights Act but does not repeal it as the current bill does. Or, considering the attacks on the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) that we have seen throughout the leadership campaign, we could see something emerge that is even darker. It is not unforeseeable that an attempt could be made to withdraw from the ECHR completely.
4. It is split up into many pieces of legislation: As a single piece of legislation, the Government may have realised that the Rights Removal Bill would be a potentially difficult bill to pass. However, there is a lot of political appetite for certain aspects of the bill, especially regarding deportations. Indeed, considering the new Home Secretary, Suella Braverman’s, comments about human rights and deportations, it is possible that elements of the Rights Removal Bill could be enthusiastically inserted into other separate pieces of legislation in order for the Government to push through its agenda priorities.
Whatever happens, it is unlikely that Liz Truss’ Government will be a force for genuine good regarding human rights in the UK.
Therefore, we should celebrate this success, but remain vigilant and ready for whatever may come next.
The good news is that civil society is prepared. The Rights Removal Bill brought together hundreds of cross-sector organisations and individuals together with the aim of protecting our human rights.