Free speech will be ‘trump card’ in new legislation that replaces Human Rights Act 

Free speech will be made a legal ‘trump card’ under landmark legislation that will rip up Labour’s controversial Human Rights Act.

Tony Blair’s legislation, which enshrined the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into domestic law more than 20 years ago, will be replaced with a new Bill of Rights.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, who is masterminding the major shake-up, has vowed to give ‘overriding importance’ to principles of free speech.

The Bill, pledged in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech and expected to be published early next month, will seek to stave off moves towards European-style privacy laws without Parliament’s approval.

It will also contain measures to prevent foreign criminals from dodging deportation by deploying legal challenges under the ‘right to respect for private and family life’.

The law is also expected to set out how rulings by Britain’s top judges will take precedence over those from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured at opening of Parliament), who is masterminding the major shake-up, has vowed to give ‘overriding importance’ to principles of free speech

Brexit benefits ‘to be unleashed’ 

Seven Bills were unveiled yesterday aimed at ‘unleashing’ Brexit benefits.

The Government will amend or repeal EU legislation that remains in British law more easily without taking ‘decades of parliamentary time’. It will assert the supremacy of Parliament over retained EU law while allowing more of it to be amended without primary legislation.

Ministers are also planning to cut £1billion of ‘EU red tape for businesses’.

And there will be a new data protection regime, new regulation for financial services, changes to public procurement rules and a new approach to environmental assessment in planning laws. Boris Johnson claimed it would ‘finish the job of unleashing the benefits of Brexit’.

Earlier this year, Mr Raab told the Daily Mail that democratic debate had been ‘whittled away by wokery and political correctness’. 

He promised his reforms would protect the ability of the Press to expose corruption and wrongdoing, as well as allow individuals to speak their minds.

‘Effectively, free speech will be given what will amount to a trump card status in a whole range of areas,’ Mr Raab said in March.

‘I feel very strongly that the parameters of free speech and democratic debate are being whittled away, whether by the privacy issue or whether it’s wokery and political correctness. I worry about those parameters of free speech being narrowed.’

He also addressed concerns that decisions by unelected judges are gradually introducing privacy laws without the approval of Parliament.

It follows concern at a ruling in favour of the Duchess of Sussex in a privacy dispute against The Mail on Sunday, as well as the rise of ‘cancel culture’ over issues such as women’s and trans rights.

The Bill will make it harder for appeals to reach court under Article 8 of the ECHR, concerning the right to family life.

Up to 70 per cent of foreign criminals who lodge deportation appeals do so under Article 8, claiming it will be a breach of their rights for reasons such as having children in the UK.

But under the new plans they will have to seek permission from the courts before they can bring such a claim.

Human rights groups such as Liberty have described the plan as ‘a blatant, unashamed power grab’, while Labour has said it will ‘oppose the Human Rights Act being ripped to shreds’.

Ruinous press costs to be axed 

Ministers will finally scrap legislation which could have imposed ruinous libel costs on the Press.

Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 would have forced newspapers to pay both sides’ legal costs in defamation and privacy cases – even if they won.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, sits by the The Imperial State Crown, in the House of Lords Chamber, during the historic State Opening of Parliament today

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, sits by the The Imperial State Crown, in the House of Lords Chamber, during the historic State Opening of Parliament today

Crackdown on foreign spies 

Suspected foreign spies will be banned from key sites and a register of those who pose a threat to the country will be introduced under new laws.

The security services will be given extra powers under a National Security Bill which will also create new offences to tackle hacking.

The legislation, described as the biggest overhaul of security laws for a generation, will bring the Official Secrets Act up to date, ministers say.

It will mean that ‘hostile actors’ could be prevented from visiting, working or studying in certain places where they cannot be prosecuted or disrupted.

A ‘Foreign Influence Registration Scheme’ would require people to register certain arrangements with foreign governments, in line with similar schemes in the US and Australia.

The measures could also block terrorists from receiving civil damages payouts which could be used to fund their crimes.

 

But ministers said yesterday that the legislation, vehemently opposed by newspaper groups and Press freedom campaigners, will now be scrapped.

The provision would have affected any newspaper not signed up to a Royal Charter-approved regulator.

Just one regulator – Impress – was given approval, but concerns were raised about its independence after it emerged that it was funded by two charities linked to Max Mosley, the former Formula One boss.

The majority of media organisations refused to sign up to the body.

Almost all are instead signed up to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), a voluntary Press-funded body.

Despite being on the statute book for years, the legislation has never been brought into force. 

In 2017 the Tories pledged in their manifesto to repeal it.

Prosecution lingers for IRA and soldiers

The security services will be given extra powers under a National Security Bill which will also create new offences to tackle hacking.

The legislation, described as the biggest overhaul of security laws for a generation, will bring the Official Secrets Act up to date, ministers say.

It will mean that ‘hostile actors’ could be prevented from visiting, working or studying in certain places where they cannot be prosecuted or disrupted.

A ‘Foreign Influence Registration Scheme’ would require people to register certain arrangements with foreign governments, in line with similar schemes in the US and Australia.

The measures could also block terrorists from receiving civil damages payouts which could be used to fund their crimes.

From pets to trains, what else was in the Queen’s Speech

Schools Bill: Cracks down on truancy, beefs up powers of watchdogs and shakes up funding.

Transport Bill: Provides the ‘Great British Railways’ body with powers to take control of the rail system.

Energy Security Bill: Paves the way for new, low-carbon technologies and growing the consumer market for electric heat pumps.

Renters Reform Bill: Seeks to abolish ‘no fault’ evictions, but also reforms the possession grounds for landlords of bad tenants.

Seafarers’ Remuneration Bill: Cracks down on ferry operators who do not pay national minimum wage by giving ports powers to suspend them.

Public Order Bill: Cracks down on ‘guerrilla protesters’ with harsher sentences and makes new offences for those who glue themselves to roads or ‘lock on’ to public transport.

Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill: Seeks to crack down on illicit finance with powers to seize crypto assets quicker.

Conversion Therapy Bill: Bans attempts to change sexual orientation, but not gender identity.

Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Bill: Prevents councils from boycotting a country’s goods.

Independent football regulator: Protect clubs’ financial sustainability and makes sure stewards are fit to practice.

Animal Welfare Bill: Introduces new welfare standards and cracks down on puppy smuggling.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk

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