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Why won’t Dominic Raab answer questions on human rights next week?
Parliament’s joint committee on human rights was “extremely disappointed” to hear that Dominic Raab had pulled out of a longstanding arrangement to answer questions from MPs and peers about his Bill of Rights Bill next Wednesday — particularly as the bill has not received pre-legislative scrutiny.
Cancelling an evidence session is an unusual thing to do, although Priti Patel also withdrew from giving evidence to a select committee this week. It appears that the justice secretary offered no explanation for changing his plans.
So let me suggest one. By the time these committees resume work after the summer recess, we shall have a new prime minister and a new cabinet. That cabinet is likely to look very different from those appointed by Boris Johnson. It seems unlikely that Raab and Patel will keep their current jobs, even if they remain ministers.
In normal circumstances, that might not matter. A change of minister would not necessarily mean a change of policy.
But Raab may be the only member of parliament — perhaps indeed the only person in the world — who wants to introduce this particular bill at this particular time. Human rights reform has been something of an obsession of his since he published a book on the subject in 2009. Clearly, he persuaded Boris Johnson to include this bill in the current legislative session. But there is no suggestion that the prime minister ever troubled himself with the detail of what Raab is proposing.
His predecessor Robert Buckland told me he would not have brought forward a bill as radical as this. As far as I know, none of the current Conservative leadership candidates regards human rights reform as an immediate priority.
What would be the point of Raab answering questions next week about a bill that may not even receive a second reading in the Commons? Far from being disappointed, the human rights committee should be pleased to see this legislation slowly fading away.
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