The Queen’s Speech and human rights [updated]

25 May 2010 by

The Coalition Government has presented its legislative agenda for the coming year in the Queen’s Speech. Below are links to some of our previous posts which address some of the proposed policies.

The full line-up of bills announced can be found on the Number 10 website, or you can also read the full transcript. Our analysis of the Coalition’s human rights policies is here. The list will probably not be exhaustive, as some of the promises made in the Programme for Government may be instituted via secondary legislation or attached to other related Acts of Parliament.

One notable absence is any mention of reform to extradition policy (see our post from yesterday). The Programme for Government included the promise to “review the operation of the Extradition Act – and the US/UK extradition treaty – to make sure it is even-handed.” Liberty, the human rights organisation, had already welcomed the change in a statement on Monday. The family of Gary McKinnon would have also been waiting for this, as Mr McKinnon is currently awaiting a decision from the new Home Secretary as to whether he will be extradited to the United States on computer hacking charges. That being said, a change to the extradition arrangements may be included in another bill, although this seems unlikely.

The Human Rights Act was not mentioned, which will be a relief to its supporters who were initially fearful that the Coalition Government were going to scrap the Act in line with Conservative manifesto promises. As things stand, the position of the Act will be reviewed by a commission, which means there will not be any changes in the near future. In any case, it is highly unlikely that the Liberal Democrats would support any withdrawal from the rights guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Human rights aspects of the bills

Freedom (Great Repeal) Bill

Will limit the amount of time that DNA profiles of innocent people can be held on national database. Will tighten regulation on the use of CCTV cameras, remove limits on right to peaceful protest. The storage of DNA is a power devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The Bill would adopt the Scottish model.

Identity Documents Bill

Will scrap identity cards and National Identity Register introduced by Labour and cancel the next generation of biometric passports. UK-wide legislation.

Terrorist Asset Freezing Bill

Will expand scope of existing legislation to cover new organisations thought to present threat to security. UK wide legislation.

Other measures will be implemented via secondary legislation or included in future draft bills:

Reform of Parliamentary privilege laws (draft bill)

Update 25/05/10

  • Joshua Rozenberg blogs on the likely content of the Freedom (Great Repeal) Bill, and suggests that important details of the proposed legislation, for example how the right to trial by jury will be protected and “ensuring anti-terrorism legislation strikes the right balance”, remain unknown “Not because the government doesn’t want to tell us, but because it doesn’t know. Imagine the chaos in Whitehall over the past few days as the LibDems grabbed all the chocolates in the sweet-shop. Before long, they’ll find out that some of them are bitter, while others have remarkably hard centres.”

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