On 1 January 2015, Oxford Pro Bono Publico (OPBP) made a submission to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee of the House of Commons in response to its consultation on ‘A New Magna Carta?’, a report considering the possibility of codifying the UK Constitution, and the potential contents of such a reformed Constitution.
OPBP’s submission focused on a specific issue raised by one of the blueprints for a codified Constitution contained in the appendix to the report – the human rights protection accorded to non‑nationals. Section 6(12)(a) in the illustrative written Constitution would allow Parliament to determine the extent to which non-nationals should be entitled to enjoy ‘civic rights’.
The submission, entitled ‘The Protection of the Human Rights of Non-Nationals under a Reformed UK Constitution: Lessons from International and Comparative Jurisprudence’, aims to inform the debate about the future protection of non-nationals’ human rights in the UK by providing an overview of how such rights are presented under major international and regional human rights treaties, and in other countries. A team of twelve researchers worked to compile reports on non‑nationals’ rights under the European Convention of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other UN-sponsored treaties, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as considering domestic rights protection in South Africa, Canada, Germany, France, the United States, Nigeria and Brazil.
OPBP’s research indicated that human rights protections generally apply both to nationals and non-nationals, with the exception of a limited number of specific rights concerning political participation, public employment, entry to the national territory and freedom of movement, and freedom from deportation. The term ‘civic rights’ is not used in other instruments studied to indicate the categories of rights generally limited to citizens. None of the other instruments studied accords a blanket power to the legislature to determine the extent to which non-nationals should be guaranteed human rights.
The submission recommended that, because section 6(12)(a) of the illustrative written Constitution could potentially be interpreted to allow Parliament broader power to determine the extent of non-nationals’ human rights than would be permitted under international and regional treaties and in other jurisdictions, it should not be included in any codified or reformed UK Constitution.
The report can be downloaded here.