A Welsh Bill of Rights?

Written by Volunteer Clara Morer Andrades

“[…] for the people, for our planet, for now and for the future”, the Act of Wellbeing for future generations passed in 2015 has become a landmark not only in Welsh legislation, but also, an example to follow by the UN. The Act addresses from an economic, social, environmental and cultural dimensions how legislation can affect the well-being and enjoyment of Welsh people’s lives. However, despite significant advances, the question remains on whether the Act is enough to assure the protection, enjoyment and pursuance of human rights.

With regards to human rights’ jurisdiction, UK’s law is mainly reliant on the 1998 Human Rights Act. Over the last few years though, there have been multiple calls from civil society and regional authorities for a more autonomous and independent system to be put in place in order to assure the promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights. In Northern Ireland for instance, following what was agreed in the Good Friday Agreement of 1999, there have been different studies pointing out the need for a regional Bill of Rights to be created and controlled by Stormont (parliament of N.I).In a report from the Committee on the Administration of Justice, the organisation defended that a bill of Rights for Northern Ireland “could have a vital role in re-stabilising the peace settlement” and have a “vital importance” for the people of Northern Ireland in the post-Brexit scenario.

In the case of Wales, although in a different context, distinct organisations have also raised awareness for the need for a Welsh Bill of Rights, or at least, for the devolved government to have a more relevant role when concerning human rights policies. In both UK’s, and Welsh law, human rights legislation is mainly controlled by the central powers. That is to say, while Welsh authorities have the power to implement and monitor human rights, their capacity is mainly limited as “duty bearers” and to protect human rights through policies of due regard.

Through laws like the Wellbeing for future Generations, or the Equality Plan and Objectives, the Senedd managed to influence and create policy to assure the protection, respect, and fulfilment of specific human rights related to children, disabled people and discrimination against women. Yet, here is where the criticism erupts. These policies, although welcomed, are not enough. As shown in the report “Strengthening and advancing equality and human rights in Wales” published in September of this year, Welsh legislation, even with the existence of the Wellbeing for Future Generations Act, is not able to fully and properly address the demands and entitlements that their population has on human rights.  According to the existing legal literature, wellbeing, equality and human rights, on principle, are related. However, they are not the same.   Human rights standards can cause and/or affect equality and well-being levels of a society. Therefore, with Welsh law only being able to impact the equality and wellbeing of certain groups, other aspects and individuals who are in need of a more tailored legislation for their rights to be protected, might end up being cast aside. That is why, it would be for the interest of the regional governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to have further say in how to address human rights’ policies in their own territory. Even if, that would entail for Westminster to lose its monopoly over the human rights’ mandate.


GOV.WALES. 2020. Equality plan and objectives: 2020 to 2024. [online] Available here

Law.gov.wales. n.d. Introduction to human rights law. [online] Available here

Law.gov.wales. n.d. Law making in Wales. [online] Available here

Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. Available here

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