Plans to scrap HRA pushed back as constitutional court considered

Michael Gove

Government plans to scrap the Human Rights Act have been postponed because of “complex” proposals which could see the Supreme Court become a constitutional court.

The Justice Secretary Michael Gove told the House of Lords Constitution Committee that the British Bill of Rights consultation had been pushed back until 2016.

He said to peers: “My original intention was to publish the consultation before Christmas.

“It has now been put back. I expect it will be produced in the new year.”

Mr Gove attributed the delay to a change involving the UK’s highest court which the Prime Minister David Cameron raised and which “requires serious thought”.

The issue was “whether or not we should use the British bill of rights to create a constitutional longstop, similar to Germany’s constitutional court, and whether the supreme court should be that body”.

The idea was suggested last year by President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, who said at the time: “If we had a constitution, this would presumably have primacy over decisions of the human rights court in Strasbourg and even those of the EU court in Luxembourg. Where those decisions appeared to be inconsistent with any fundamental constitutional principles, those principles would prevail.

“Without an overriding constitution, it is very difficult for a UK court to adopt such an approach, but it is an approach which, for instance, the German constitutional court has shown itself quite ready to take, when appropriate.”

Mr Gove added: “This is a very important matter.”

“It’s only countries with written constitutions that have constitutional courts.”

The Conservatives would like to repeal the Human Rights Act and sever domestic courts’ links with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), but are divided on whether this necessitates withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights.

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