Bill of Rights
I would like to assure you that the new Bill of Rights will reflect the government's enduring commitment to liberty under the rule of law. A new Bill of Rights marks the next step in the development of the UK’s tradition of upholding human rights, and is informed by the recent Independent Human Rights Act Review. The Government remains committed to both the European Convention on Human Rights and the UK's proud tradition of human rights leadership abroad.
As you will appreciate, some rights in the European Convention are "qualified" recognising explicitly the need to respect the rights of others and the broader needs of society. Since 2000, human rights claims have been brought by many people who have themselves showed a flagrant disregard for the rights of others. A Bill of Rights could require the courts to give greater consideration to the behaviour of claimants and the wider public interest when interpreting and balancing qualified rights and I think this is absolutely right. The recent consultation contains a plethora of examples which are indicative of the unfortunate perception that that it is worth making a human rights claim, even on flimsy grounds. Although many claims are unsuccessful, the fact that they can be brought, at public expense, serves to undermine confidence both in the Human Rights Act and the value of upholding human rights more generally, and that is why I believe we must strike the proper balance of rights and responsibilities.
The Government has committed to amend, replace, or repeal all retained EU law that is not right for the UK and to begin a new series of reforms to the legislation we inherited on EU exit. This process will ensure all courts in this country will have the full ability to depart from EU case law and finalise the process of restoring Parliament and our courts to their proper constitutional positions. It is important to note that much of this EU legislation was agreed as a compromise between 28 different EU member states and did not always reflect the UK’s own priorities or objectives. Much of this law was also imposed in the face of UK government opposition, and changed with minimal parliamentary scrutiny in the past. The Brexit Freedoms Bill forms part of a wider plan to do things differently, in ways that work better for this country, and promote growth, productivity, and prosperity.
Although there are 42 dioceses in the present-day Church of England, the number of places for Lords Spiritual is limited to 26 by statute. This includes the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, as well as the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester, with the remaining 21 places on the Bishops’ Bench occupied by the longest-serving bishops of English dioceses. As you may be aware, bishops retire from the House of Lords when they leave office as a bishop.
When the House of Lords is sitting, there is always at least one Lord Spiritual present to read prayers at the start of the day and to participate in business of the House. It is important to note that official proceedings cannot begin until prayers have been read. Attendance in the House to read prayers is determined by a rota, with Bishops also able to attend on an ad-hoc basis when matters of interest or concern are scheduled.
By and large, I am very sympathetic to your points. Our constitution is a product of our history, and reforms tend to lag considerably changes in society. It is amazing we still have hereditary peers in the House of Lords, elected to that position by themselves. I agree the number of bishops should be reduced, and I will push for this.
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