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Ministerial Speech

Volume 524: debated on Tuesday 1 March 2011

5. If he will place in the Library a copy of the speech he made to Politeia on 14 February 2011. (42456)

I did not make a formal speech during the Politeia event, so any comments I made were in response to points raised during a seminar. I therefore regret that I do not have any written record that can be placed in the Library.

The Attorney-General is reported as having said the following at the Politeia seminar:

“The court”—

the European Court of Human Rights—

“doesn’t have the last word. It only has the last word so far as parliament has decided that it should. We could, if we wanted to, undo that—I think we should always bear that in mind—and actually undo it without some of the consequences we have over the European Union.”

Did he say that? If so, what does it mean?

The question arose in the context of parliamentary sovereignty. What I said to the seminar was what I also said to this House on the previous Thursday, which was that the operation of the European convention on human rights and the jurisdiction of the Court are based on the UK having signed up to the convention in the late 1940s and having ratified it through Parliament, with Parliament thereby accepting the jurisdiction of the Court. It is legally open to Parliament to enact primary legislation or otherwise to withdraw from the convention if it wished to do so and if the Government wished that through Parliament. That was the point that I was making; I was simply trying to explain the legal framework under which parliamentary sovereignty works in this context. I would add that any withdrawal would not come without costs or consequences, and it is not Government policy to withdraw.