Plans to scrap the Human Rights Act have been delayed, and its replacement British Bill of Rights has been placed on the back burner. Yesterday’s Queen Speech referred only briefly to the key Conservative pledge to axe the Human Rights Act, whilst outlining a range of reforms to Europe, housing, immigration, bail and security.
- You can read James Sandbach of the Legal Action Group’s Low Commission on the Queen’s Speech here.
‘I wish I could feel more positive that there will be more opportunities to address the justice gap in this Parliament than the last one, but the Queen’s speech does not offer much comfort.’
The new government will press ahead with extending the right to buy scheme to housing association residents, allowing them to buy their homes at a discount. Councils will have to sell empty high-value homes and reimburse housing associations with the proceeds. First-time buyers are to be assisted by way of 200,000 starter homes being sold at a 20% discount.
Immigration will also be subject to reform, with the Immigration Bill including new measures to clamp down on various aspects of immigration. The police will be able to seize wages paid to illegal workers as ‘proceeds of crime’, and foreign criminals awaiting deportation will have to wear tracking tags. Businesses and recruitment agencies will also have to advertise in the UK before hiring from abroad.
The government also plans to reform bail, with a 28-day limit imposed for pre-charge bail. Detaining those who are mentally ill in police cells will also be banned. The Howard League for Penal Reform has welcomed these changes, as well as the news that 17 year olds will be treated as children in police custody.
The government is planning to pass an Investigatory Powers Bill to monitor communications. Advocates of the Bill have stated it will ‘address gaps’ in intelligence gathering, whilst sceptics have renamed it the Snooper’s Charter, and fear it will result in mass surveillance. This Bill was previously blocked by the Liberal Democrats.
The in/out referendum on Europe is to be put to a public vote by 2017 at the latest, with potential scope to hold it earlier. The Law Society is to publish a report this summer on the potential consequences the EU Referendum Bill will have on the legal sector.
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