Dominic Raab’s controversial rights could be scrapped again, as a senior Tory MP said they were confident “wise heads in No 10” would lead the government to turn around once more.
After a series of letdowns this week by Rishi Sunak over planning and long-promised legislation, former Justice Minister Robert Buckland urged him to avoid a protracted parliamentary battle that could last hundreds of hours.
The Prime Minister is said to have told Raab he intends to deprioritise the bill given concerns that it could spark a row between Tory MPs and be blocked by the House of Lords, blocking the progress of other bills. be delayed.
The Bill of Rights has been Raab’s hobbyhorse for years. He proposed it under David Cameron and revived the idea under Boris Johnson before Liz Truss scrapped it during her short-lived reign.
Sunak promised to bring back the bill, but MPs have not yet started on it and there is no date for them to start doing so.
Buckland, who is a king’s counselor, said he believes Downing Street is “thinking anxiously” about the future of the bill.
He said: “The Prime Minister is a pragmatist, he has already shown his ability to listen and adapt and I think act sensibly on a number of issues related to energy security for example – and this is another case in point.
“At a time of a busy parliamentary schedule, a bill that was due to go to second reading as early as September is not even forthcoming. And the parliamentary session will be over in April.
“All these questions, I am sure, will be looming large among his advisers. And they’ll ask the question – and I like the old wartime adage about saving fuel – is your trip really necessary?
“I’m pretty sure wise minds in No. 10 will say, ‘Well no, it’s not.’ Some degree of reform, yes. But not this.”
Sunak’s control of his party has been called into question again this week, given that he scrapped the mandatory housing target on Monday, reversed a ban on onshore wind farms on Tuesday and then oversaw the approval of a new coal mine – all in the light of potential Tory rebellions.
Buckland said an apparent goal of the Bill of Rights, enshrining the right to trial by jury, was unnecessary given the existing law.
“I just don’t see the real purpose of many of these clauses,” he said at an event organized by Chamber policy magazine. “I hope the prime minister is told he really needs to lower or withdraw the bill before more damage is done.”
Sources close to Raab insisted they had not yet abandoned the bill and stressed that it remains part of the government’s agenda.
Raab has previously argued that the bill represents an evolutionary rather than revolutionary change from human rights law and a fulfillment of the Conservative Manifesto’s 2019 pledge to update the legislation.
It has been marketed as a way of trying to fix what the government has described as a “broken” asylum system and to combat the number of small boat crossings in the Channel.
If they are scrapped, government sources indicated that some of the measures could be incorporated into other pieces of legislation, including one to be unveiled in the new year by Interior Secretary Suella Braverman.