The déjà vu Queen’s Speech

You can’t beat the Palace of Westminster for a good ol’ slice of pomp and ceremony. Did you know that every year, ahead of the State opening of Parliament (or Queen’s Speech to the non-political geeks), the Beefeaters still sweep Westminster’s cellars for a Guy Fawkes-esque plot?

Every year we also gather round at Amnesty’s office to watch this spectacle. We do this, not just to watch Black Rod, who wouldn’t look out of place in Blackadder the Third, have the House of Commons door slammed in his face only to respond by taking a massive stick and whacking it. But also because it marks the formal start of the parliamentary year and the Queen's Speech sets out the government’s agenda for the coming session.

So what does this year’s Queen’s Speech mean for our human rights?

Human Rights Act

The Queen has announced (again… and again) that the government will bring in a British Bill of Rights. Last year, thousands of you funded adverts in the Times and the Telegraph imploring the government not to rip up our rights. This year, as expected, we got a renewed (in identical words to last year – maybe they’re tired out from all the failed attempts to write the Bill) confirmation from the government of its intention to replace the Human Rights Act with a weaker “British Bill of Rights”. Perhaps this video sneak peak of the Cabinet meeting pre-Queen’s Speech discussing British Bill of Rights proposals gives us all an insight into why attempts to weaken the Human Rights Act are proving tricky for the government. In response Amnesty and 135 organisations have pledged to fight the (re)announced proposals.

Only a few weeks ago, Hillsborough reminded us all how crucial the Human Rights Act is to ordinary people when all other avenues of justice fail. So, with your help, we will continue to tell the government to leave the Human Rights Act alone - it’s ours, it’s working and it is very much needed.

Join the fight to save the Human Rights Act

Extremism and Safeguarding Bill

Yet again the Queen has announced an Extremism Bill, a repeat from last year. Yet again, like the British Bill of Rights, it didn’t actually appear despite the announcement, apparently because they – surprise, surprise – can’t find a sensible way to define what it is they are planning to ban.

As with last year we still don’t know much detail but this time it has been rolled up into something called a Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill. We fear it could mean far-reaching restrictions on freedom of expression and yet more administrative civil Orders imposed on vague grounds to curtail the rights of those whose behaviour isn’t actually criminal. When this was announced in 2015 (seeing a pattern here, people?) Philip Johnston warned us that laws against 'extremism' risk criminalising us all

The Snoopers Charter

Another déjà vu moment; despite the rush to get the Investigatory Powers Bill though Parliament at breakneck speed, the government didn’t complete work on this last session so here it is again. This Bill is a dangerous piece of legislation. The UK’s surveillance measures presented in the Bill go too far, too fast with vast powers to monitor communications, access information and tamper with computers and phones and software are lacking critical safeguards, including proper independent judicial scrutiny.

The basic take home is ‘they’ll be watching you’. If you don’t want your internet history filed and stored or your emails and messages processed even read and stored then please join our campaign.

Foreign Affairs

The government committed to leading role in world affairs. This something we’d love to see the UK government crack on with on the human rights front. Unfortunately, the headlines from this year feels like we have yet another year of fighting attacks on our hard won rights here in the UK. Perhaps it’s time for us to hold the pen on our Queen’s Speech.

Top of our “does what it says on the tin Bills” would be the following:

  • Refugees Joining Their Families Bill – Expanding immigration rules and allowing refugees to join family members in the UK. The government could make a huge difference to families torn apart by war, crisis and persecution in their home country.
  • Stop Selling Arms for Human Rights Abuses Bill – First step is stop arming Saudi Arabia and other states that use our weapons and risk abusing people’s rights. Step two, we tighten our laws on arms dealers exploiting tax and company loopholes.
  • Protecting Women and Girls from Violence Bill – On this we couldn’t agree with Theresa May more that “Victims of abuse are still being let down”. One step is to finally ratify the Istanbul Convention, which seeks prevent and combat violence against women and girls.
About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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1 comment

I think that the UN declaration of human rights cannot always work and I know people are already getting annoyed reading this but I'm going to say why I think this. If we have the right to not having our privacy, family and home then what happens when a father is suspected of abusing his child? Do we let him carry on as he is "innocent until proven guilty" and we cannot interfere with his privacy or family as he is "innocent" so how can he ever be proven guilty? Unless he abused his child in public but this unlikely event cannot be waited for as the child is in Danger.
So a bill like this will make a situation like this or completely different that UN declaration of human rights cannot carry out justice able to have justice carried out. which is a good thing right?
Also many horrific terrorist events have been prevented by the british Intelligence services that are, according to articles written by Amnesty International, breaking human rights by interfering with people privacy yet stopping mass murder. What is more important, some guy that has declared never to tell anyone what he has read, heard or seen looking at a text you sent your girlfriend, or your family and friends being killed by something that could have been prevented by an intercepted message or phone call between two terrorists?

theoroberts45 1 year ago