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European Court of Human Rights

Volume 551: debated on Tuesday 16 October 2012

10. What assessment he has made of progress in reforming the European Court of Human Rights; and if he will make a statement. (122184)

Good progress has been made in clearing the backlog of inadmissible cases before the Court. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the Government have approached the need to reform the European Court of Human Rights through the Brighton declaration. Reaching agreement on the declaration represents a substantial step towards realising the Government’s ambitions, particularly on the extent to which the Court should get involved in questions that national courts have already fully considered. We need now to ensure that the reforms are implemented swiftly. The first key step—preparation of a draft protocol to reflect the required amendments to the convention—is due to be completed by April 2013.

I thank the Attorney-General for that answer, but will he give a complete and categorical assurance to the House that there is no question of Britain withdrawing from the European convention on human rights? Doing so would mean being the only country, alongside Belarus, that was not part of the convention, which has performed an important role in promoting and defending human rights across every one of its member states. We should be part of that process, not turn away from it.

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. There is no question of the United Kingdom withdrawing from the convention. We helped to draft it and we support it strongly. It has already contributed to widespread changes across Europe, including the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the recognition of the freedom of religion in the former Soviet countries, the prevention of ill treatment in police stations and elsewhere, and the removal of military judges from civilian courts. Those are all very good reasons for it continuing its very good work.