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The Conservative Party went into the 2015 General Election with a manifesto commitment to “scrap the Human Rights Act and curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights.”

This note provides a brief introduction to the Human Rights Act 1998; the European Convention on Human Rights and the work of the European Court of Human Rights.  It considers the impact of both the 1998 Act and the Convention on the sovereignty of the UK Parliament; examining the vexed question of prisoner voting; as well as wider moves to reform the Convention system during the 2010-15 Parliament. These included the establishment of a Commission on a Bill of Rights and the ‘Brighton Declaration’ which was agreed during the UK’s Presidency of the Council of Europe in 2012.

The note ends by assessing the potential challenges to the repeal of the Human Rights Act, such as the impact on the devolution settlement and the consequences for the UK’s continued membership of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Council of Europe.  There has been strong opposition to any move to repeal the Human Rights Act and leave the Convention from the Scottish Government.

Moves to repeal the Human Rights Act have traditionally been resisted by the other major parties in the UK Parliament (the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party all went into the General Election on a platform to retain the current human rights framework).  By contrast, UKIP favoured repealing the Human Rights Act and withdrawing from the jurisdiction of the European Convention on Human Rights; and some members of the Democratic Unionist Party have spoken in favour of a United Kingdom Bill of Rights.


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