UK faces ‘decimation of rights’ in Queen’s Speech, warn campaigners

UK faces ‘decimation of rights’ in Queen’s Speech, warn campaigners

Date: 20 June 2017

A new briefing released today warns that the Great Repeal Bill that will be outlined in the Queen’s Speech could strip away all manner of vital legal protections from areas including human rights, workers’ rights, financial regulation, the environment and consumer protections.

Decimating Rights: The Consequences of the Great Repeal Bill, released by campaign groups Global Justice Now and Another Europe Is Possible (AEIP) argues that: “ The Great Repeal Bill will empower the government to select which EU laws, rights and protections are transferred into domestic law. This power will be largely unaccountable. Key rights and protections are therefore vulnerable to repeal without scrutiny.”

Sam Fowles, legal academic from Queen Mary University, member of AIEP and the report author said: “The Great Repeal Bill creates the opportunity for the government to remove rights and protections to which it objects without going through the usual mechanisms of democratic accountability. This report highlights those policy areas to which the Conservative party has already shown hostility, including protections for the environment, workers, and individual privacy. These rights are at risk unless the bill is amended.”

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, part of the AEIP coalition said: “EU law incorporates some of our most cherished protections and rights, as well as rules that, for instance, prevent our government from selling products that can be used in torture overseas. Giving Theresa May the powers of a renaissance monarch to translate these rights and protections into British law is terrifying, as it enables her government to change the way these laws work in fundamental ways, without parliamentary scrutiny. We need enhanced, not reduced, democratic oversight of this process. If parliament cannot achieve this scrutiny, we urge it to vote down the whole Great Repeal Bill.”   

Decimating Rights: The Consequences of the Great Repeal Bill is being released at a time when the importance of regulations and legal safeguards is being radically re-evaluated in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. While the exact causes of the extent of the tragedy have yet to be established, many commentators have highlighted the government’s drive in recent years to systematically ‘cut red tape’ and dismantle health and safety culture, citing them as a barrier to the business sector. The briefing argues that the bill would provide the biggest opportunity to junk huge sections of this protective legislation ever seen in recent times.

The five policy areas highlighted by the briefing are:

  1. Workers’ rights, in particular the rights of agency workers, protections for working time, and enforcement of the prohibition on discrimination.
  2. The environment, in particular ensuring that environmental protections are effective, and polluters bear the cost of pollution, water safety, and air quality.
  3. Human rights, particularly prohibitions on the torture trade and protections for privacy.
  4. Consumer protection, particularly the regulation of dangerous chemicals and food safety.
  5. Financial regulation, particularly in the event that Brexit negotiators are unable to secure the concessions required to maintain the City of London’s access to the EU.

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