Press release

Commission on a UK Bill of Rights launched

An independent Commission to investigate the case for a UK Bill of Rights has been launched today.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Commission, to be headed by former Permanent Secretary, Sir Leigh Lewis, fulfils a pledge set out in the Coalition Agreement and forms part of the Government’s strategy to ensure that our rights, freedoms and liberties are protected in a way that properly reflects our traditions.

In addition to the Chairman, the Commission will include eight human rights experts appointed jointly by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. The Commission members are:

  • Martin Howe QC
  • Anthony Lester QC
  • Jonathan Fisher QC
  • Helena Kennedy QC
  • Anthony Speaight QC
  • Philippe Sands QC
  • Michael Pinto-Duschinsky
  • Sir David Edward

Details of the Commission’s remit were also announced today and include providing interim advice to Ministers on reform of the European Court of Human Rights ahead of the final report being published by the end of 2012.

An advisory panel will also be established to provide advice and expertise to the Commission on issues arising in relation to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Commission will report jointly to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Justice.

The Commission’s full Terms of Reference are:

The Commission will investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in UK law, and protects and extend our liberties.

It will examine the operation and implementation of these obligations, and consider ways to promote a better understanding of the true scope of these obligations and liberties.
It should provide advice to the Government on the ongoing Interlaken process to reform the Strasbourg court ahead of and following the UK’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe.
It should consult, including with the public, judiciary and devolved administrations and legislatures, and aim to report no later than by the end of 2012.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

‘Human rights are fundamental to our democracy. They act as a safeguard: protecting individual citizens from the State abusing its power.

‘The Commission’s work will help us maintain, and build upon, an enduring framework of fundamental rights that will prevent the abuse and erosion of these freedoms for generations to come.’

Secretary of State Kenneth Clarke said:

“The Commission has a very important role to play in examining the operation of the European Court of Human Rights and how we implement human rights in the UK. I hope that this work will help to inform the debate on human rights at home and assist us as we continue to press for reform of the Strasbourg Court. I look forward to receiving their recommendations.”

Sir Leigh Lewis, Chairman of the Commission, said:

‘I am delighted to have been asked chair this important Commission, working alongside such an eminent panel of experts in the field. I hope that the Commission’s final report will provide an objective and informed basis for the future debate on human rights in the UK.’

Notes to editors

  1. For further information please contact the Ministry of Justice Press Office newsdesk on 0203 334 3536.
Published 18 March 2011