Skip to main content

European Convention on Human Rights

Volume 560: debated on Tuesday 19 March 2013

As a coalition Government, we remain committed to the European convention on human rights, and we are also closely involved in the process to reform the Strasbourg Court. Individual political parties will choose what approach to take at the next general election.

The Home Secretary wants to leave the European convention on human rights; the Justice Secretary has said that he is not too sure, but he wants to abolish the Human Rights Act. Apart from being another omnishambles, does that reflect their lack of commitment to human rights, the fact that they want to leave the European Union, or both?

What I think is far more shameful is the complete resistance by the Labour party to any measures designed to stop a situation in which terrorist suspects with a clear goal of doing damage to the citizens of this country can use human rights law to try to defend their right to stay in this country.

This is ludicrous equivocation from the Government on the ECHR, which was written by a Conservative Home Secretary in the 1940s and 1950s. How can we possibly say to countries such as Turkey and Russia, where British citizens need to have their rights protected, that they should adhere to the ECHR when the Justice Secretary cannot even stand up for justice?

When I was younger I was a human rights campaigner, and my idea of human rights is not providing artificial insemination to prisoners in our jails. It is up to the Labour party if it wants to defend that. I am going to carry on arguing for change, and I hope that when we are a majority Government we will deliver it.

Does the Secretary of State not recognise that the ECHR has done a great deal to improve the lot of people who were discriminated against and abused in many countries across Europe. It is an important statement of intent by a large number of countries. Can he not just get behind the principle that human rights are universal? The universal declaration is important, and the European convention was a major landmark in improving human rights around the world?

The issue is not about the original convention, which contains a sensible balance of rights and responsibilities. The issue is about how far we have moved over 60 years from the original intentions of those who wrote the convention. That is why a change is desperately needed.