We’ve previously reported on the future of human rights under the new Coalition Government.  Over in The Guardian, Afua Hirsch adds to the debate pointing out that the Joint Committee on Human Rights recommended in 2008 that a new UK bill of rights should include socio-economic rights – rights to health, education, housing and an adequate standard of living.
She starts out from the premise that “tackling poverty and building a culture of respect for human rights were twin peaks of the last government’s agenda for social justice”, and argues that these issues are “intrinsically linked” as socio-economic rights are “increasingly recognised as a tool for empowering people to lift themselves out of poverty.”

She comments on the support for and recognition of socio-economic rights abroad but notes that “socioeconomic rights are regarded by many lawyers and politicians as human rights gone too far, presenting the threat of the unjustifiable interference of the judiciary”. That said, she claims the HRA as also been used to some extent to secure dignity in accessing public services.

We note the interesting discussion in UCL’s Opticon 1826 Journal from April  on whether socio-economic rights are legally enforceable. The article outlines the main argument against legally enforceable rights alluded to by Hirsch, the “costs argument” – that it would cost a State too much to allow judges to make such decisions. It also looks at how socio-economic rights have been justiciable in South Africa and India, and their role in Ireland, Canada, the US and the UK.

David Cameron has certainly publicly spoken out against decisions of judges under the HRA as “unaccountable”, but we remain to see what the Government’s Bill of Rights Commission will make of all this.