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Rights reform and Brexit freedoms expected in Queen’s speech

By Gazette Reporter >>

(9 May 2022)

An overhaul of the 1998 Human Rights Act following the government’s consultation – though not the report of last year’s independent review – is expected to feature in tomorrow’s Queen’s speech. Press reports over the weekend said that the legislative programme, which is likely to set the scene for the next general election, will also contain a long-awaited ‘Brexit freedoms bill’ as well as planning reform.  

According to a Law Society briefing, the promised Bill of Rights will set in statute that domestic courts ‘may have regard’ for European Court of Human Rights rulings. It may also seek to replace section 3 of the Human Right Act with ‘a more restrictive limitation’ on how judges can interpret legislation when it is seemingly incompatible with international law. The bill is likely to also include provisions for the automatic deportation of foreign criminals.

The speech is also likely to announce:

  • A Brexit Freedoms Bill to create a mechanism for dealing with legacy EU rules to remove the ‘special status and supremacy of EU law within the UK legal system’.
  • A Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to seek to codify the government’s Levelling Up white paper. It would cover devolution measures, a government duty to report annually on the levelling up missions, and elements from the now-dead Planning Bill to support regeneration in less prosperous places, potentially compulsory purchase powers and support for reusing brownfield land.
  • An Economic Crime Bill to include reform of Companies House and limited companies, powers to seize cryptoassets from criminals and information sharing on money laundering.
  • A Mental Health Act (Reform) Bill would aim to give people greater control over their treatment and to reform the process for detention, improve care and treatment while someone is detained, and give them better support to challenge detention if they wish.
  • A Counter-State Threats Bill would reform the Official Secrets Acts, create a Foreign Influence Registration Scheme, and give security services new powers. It is designed to stop countries like Russia and China operating covertly in the UK.

Other measures that may feature in the speech include free trade bills to cover new international trade deals which require further primary legislation; a Victims Bill, an Online Safety Bill and a Data Bill, which would reform the laws inherited from the EU with a focus on reducing unnecessary barriers.

Among the proposed measures that are understood to have been dropped from the Queen’s speech is a draft audit bill which would create a new regulator of audit firms. The planned shake-up of audit and corporate governance was drawn up in response to a series of corporate scandals including retailer BHS in 2016, outsourcer Carillion in 2018 and cake chain Patisserie Valerie in 2019.

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)