Plans to scrap Human Rights Act won’t be pushed through as May ‘junks’ draft bill

Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to cancel plans to push through controversial human rights reform this year – in a bid to avoid yet another major constitutional row.

Former Conservative leader David Cameron had intended to push through a Tory manifesto pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act, which codifies European human rights standards into UK law and was responsible for many of the early LGBT rights victories, and replace it with a ‘British Bill of Rights’.

Rights groups had expressed concern about the plans, re-announced in the Queen’s Speech earlier this year, amid fears that it could be used to weaken the status of human rights in law.

But after Brexit led to the departure of both Mr Cameron and Justice Secretary Michael Gove, the Times newspaper reports that the bill is now ‘dead in the water’ and has been ‘junked’.

A source told the newspaper: “I think the priority for the justice department will be prison reform and she won’t want another fight with the Scottish government [which is opposed to the policy, and already fighting Brexit]. I just don’t think the will is there to drive it through.”

However, celebrations may be short-lived.

The Times reports she is understood to have been unhappy with a concession in the bill that would see the UK committed to remaining in the European Court of Human Rights , a non-EU institution that safeguards human rights across the continent.

Mrs May set out the case earlier this year for the UK withdrawing from the ECHR – but later ruled out leaving the ECHR during her bid for the Conservative leadership, admitting there would not be a Parliamentary majority for the change.

Article 14 of the ECHR, which affords protection from discrimination, has been used in many legal cases to argue for protection for LGBT people, most notably securing an equal age of consent in the UK.

The ECHR was also vital in securing a settlement in the Republic of Ireland in 2014 on gender recognition. It remains influential across Europe on LGBT rights, with Italy also securing civil unions due to an ECHR ruling.