David Cameron has broken his election pledge to repeal the Human Rights Act, in a u-turn that has come at his first Queen’s Speech since his re-election. During Cameron’s first term he claimed the coalition was preventing Tory plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights.
However, now the Conservatives are governing alone the cast iron guarantee to get rid of the Human Rights Act has been quickly replaced with a waffling commitment to “bring forward proposals” to make changes to it. This was despite Cameron claiming he would be using his new-found Tory majority to be bold.
Senior backbenchers like David Davis and Andrew Mitchell had privately warned the Conservative whips they would side with Labour and the SNP in a bid to stop any proposed legislation. In order to appease them no firm plans for legislation was published today. The new proposals will therefore be little more than a starting point for informal debate outside of the formal procedures needed to change the law.
As it became clear the government was about to make the u-turn, the SNP expressed their glee at what they will see as a major victory for the the ‘progressive left’. Alex Salmond told the BBC it showed the Conservatives were in“headlong retreat” from their pre-election pledges and it “had not taken long to get blown off course”.
Liz Truss, the Conservative environment secretary, insisted changes to Human Rights law was “absolutely” going be delivered at some point because it was a “clear manifesto pledge”. She was less clear on the exact timings, with most Westminster pundits assuming it will take years if change is delivered at all.
A government source told The Times ministers want to get the replacement of the bill “right, rather than quickly” and claimed it would be “odd if we did not consult widely”. But SNP Chief Whip Pete Wishart said the proposal had been “kicked into the longest of long grass”.