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Human Rights (Individual Petition)

Volume 984: debated on Wednesday 14 May 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal by what date he must record his decision with the European Commission of Human Rights if he intends to continue with the right of individual petition from the United Kingdom.

The existing declaration recognising the competence of the European Commission of Human Rights to receive petitions from any person, non-governmental organisation or group of individuals expires on the 14 January 1981. A declaration of renewal ought therefore to be deposited with the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe before that date.

Is it not disgraceful that such an important matter has never been debated in this House? Will my right hon. Friend do his best to persuade the Leader of the House to make such arrangements, before a final decision is taken?

I do not know whether I can agree that it is disgraceful. I know how much interest my hon. Friend takes in these matters. I shall pass on his remarks to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is unprecedented for a nation that has contracted to the convention subsequently to discontinue the right of individual petition? Will he accept that none of the 21 nations of the Council of Europe has ever done so?

I think that my hon. Friend is right. However, he will realise that several nations, including Cyprus, France, Greece, Liechtenstein, Malta, Turkey and Spain, did not accept that right in the first place.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister recently stated in a written answer, we are considering the matter.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of my constituents, a British Rail train driver, petitioned the court about the closed shop? Does not he agree that the court has played a valuable role in that case?

I am sure that that is true. As my hon. Friend will realise, there are strong arguments on both sides.