People don’t know what [the HRA] is. It remains the subject of a dialogue between lawyers, politicians and occasionally (at the moment) the media with everyone else shut out. It would be as if devolution were referred to only as the Scotland Act. It’s a bill of rights and we need to acknowledge that in the land of the Magna Carta the people finally have their own bill of rights, like the people of virtually every other democracy in the world. 133

Principles and values

It would be unfair to say that the government took no steps to prepare for the introduction of the HRA, even if most of the population was kept in the dark about it. In the two years between the passing of the HRA and its coming into force the Judicial Studies Board, a government quango, spent £4.5 million training judges in preparation for the new more ‘purposive’ approach to legal interpretation of statutes that any bill of rights requires. The Home Secretary set up a Human Rights Task Force in January 1999 to which I was appointed, along with representatives from several NGOs and professional and public bodies. Its remit was to advise on implementation outside the law courts. The new Human Rights Minister, Mike O’Brien, became chair and it was also attended (and sometimes chaired) by the late Lord Gareth Williams, who was a champion of the Act. Ministers and civil servants from the Lord Chancellor’s Department and Cabinet Offi ce were also usually present. Monthly meetings were used to explore the implications of the Act for Whitehall with offi cials across departments. Having advised on aspects of the ‘democratic’ model that was adopted, I was also appointed for a short time as an independent consultant to the Home Offi ce on other aspects of implementation. It was clear to me that at this early stage that both ministers and civil servants took seriously their responsibility to ensure a smooth introduction of the HRA.