The debate about human rights in the UK has become narrow, divisive and political. But public scepticism towards human rights relates to their application rather than the principles behind them. For centuries, protecting individual liberty has been seen as an important conservative principle. As Margaret Thatcher put it, “human rights did not begin with the French Revolution...England had 1688, our quiet revolution”.

This project explores how conservatives can think about human rights in a positive way that draws on conservative traditions of individual freedom and empowerment. It also evaluates what the Conservative Government has done on human rights, and explores new narratives and policies, which ensure that human rights are strengthened both in the UK and abroad.

In July 2017 the project culminated with the publication of "Britain breaking barriers: Strengthening human rights and tackling discrimination". This report suggested 68 new policies for the government's social reform agenda.

The report explored three key areas:

  • Ensuring any changes to the UK's human rights legislative framework strengthen human rights and is compatible with being a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

  • Advancing human rights in British foreign policy

  • Tackling discrimination - including gender, sexual, religious, disability and racial discrimination





The Rt Hon Maria Miller MP
Chair, Women and Equalities Select Committee


The Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP
Second Estates Church Commissioner


The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP
Former Attorney General for England and Wales


Matthew d'Ancona
Political Columnist, The Guardian

Ben Rogers

Benedict Rogers
Writer and human rights activist

About the commission

Our commission will be led by a group of high-profile conservative decision makers and opinion formers. It will be year-long inquiry assessing a conservative approach to human rights across three key policy areas: tackling discrimination; the British Bill of Rights; and British foreign policy.

The commission will include an all-day oral evidence session with invited experts and a call of written evidence. The commission concluded with a final report "Britain breaking barriers" that included 68 new policy recommendations.

Individual identity

Understanding how conservatives think about human rights and discrimination

12th December 2017

Discrimination and the abuse of human rights are immoral, unjust and illegal barriers to individual freedom and flourishing. Tackling them should be at the heart of conservative thinking and policymaking. However, conservatives are often considered to be sceptical of measures to strengthen human rights and tackle discrimination.

This polling report unearths in detail what Conservatives - including those from different social groups - really think about the existence of, importance of, and measures on human rights and discrimination.


Fighting for freedom?:

the historic and future relationship between conservatism and human rights

22nd August 2017


Conservative writers and politicians have been influential in the development of human rights in the UK for centuries. Sir Winston Churchill made the enthronement of human rights a war aim, which was achieved by the founding of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). It was a Conservative MP in 1968 who was the first to campaign for incorporating the ECHR into UK statute law, which would eventually be realised with the introduction of the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998.

However, Conservatives today are sceptical of the HRA. The current Government has promised to review the UK’s future human rights legal framework after Brexit. This report, written by Sir Michael Tugendhat, outlines and assesses different options for reform, concluding that Conservatives should be supporters of the HRA and ECHR.


Britain breaking barriers:

Strengthening human rights and tackling discrimination

17th July 2017

Britain is the home of human rights and a global force for good. After Brexit, Britain should not just be a global leader in free trade, but in human rights too. In this country, as a result of discrimination, too many people are still held back — especially in education and employment — because of who they are rather than what they do.

After a year-long inquiry led by a commission of high-profile decision makers and opinion formers, this report provides a comprehensive and compelling set of policies which can be used by the current Government for its social reform agenda to strengthen human rights and tackle all forms of discrimination.


A sense of belonging

16th December 2016

With the launch of the Casey Review this month sparking fresh debate about the state of integration in the UK, this new report brings together leading decision makers and opinion formers from different political and professional backgrounds to argue that integration should be a top priority that unites both Left and Right.

Contributors include: 

Dame Louise Casey (Director-general, The Casey Review team, Department for Communities
and Local Government)

Professor Ted Cantle (Author, The Cantle report on community cohesion)

Lord O’Shaughnessy (Former director of policy and research, David Cameron) 

Chuka Umunna MP (Chair, All-party parliamentary group on social integration) 

Suella Fernandes MP (Conservative MP, Fareham and Member, All-party parliamentary group on social integration


Conservatism and human rights:
essay collection

22nd March 2016

The collection, published by Bright Blue, brings together leading thinkers, decision makers and public figures to discuss three key themes in the debate around human rights: tackling discrimination; the role of human rights in British foreign policy; and ensuring the new British Bill of Rights strengthens human rights. 

Contributors include: 

The Rt Hon Damian Green MP (Former Minister for Immigration) on what should be in the British Bill of Rights

The Rt Hon Maria Miller MP (Chair, Women and Equalities Select Committee) on tackling gender discrimination

The Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC (Former Foreign Secretary) on the balance between individual freedom and state security

Crispin Blunt MP (Chair, Foreign Affairs Select Committee) on human rights with global players

Trevor Phillips OBE (Former Chair, Equality and Human Rights Commission) on tackling racial discrimination

Professor Sir Paul Collier (Director, International Growth Centre) on ending extreme poverty