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European Convention on Human Rights

Volume 597: debated on Tuesday 23 June 2015

We will legislate for a Bill of Rights to protect our fundamental rights, prevent abuse of the system and restore some common sense to our human rights laws. Our plans do not involve us leaving the convention; that is not our objective, but our No. 1 priority is to restore some balance to our human rights laws, so no option is off the table for the future.

When will Ministers publish a draft Bill of Rights, as mooted in the recent election campaign?

We said very clearly that we shall deliver it in this Parliament. We shall have a consultation in this Session so our plans will be brought forward shortly.

Does my hon. Friend agree that this country has had a proud tradition with regard to human rights, and it will remain a central part of what we do to promote best practice around the world, but in the end, the country’s commitment to human rights will be judged on its actions, not merely the piece of paper it happens to have signed?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have a strong record on human rights. We will continue to set an example around the world, but in our own domestic laws we do need to make sure that we have a common-sense balance. It is not a left or right issue; it is what the public expect as a matter of common sense.

Is the Minister aware that the Church of Scotland has expressed concern about his Government’s plans to repeal the Human Rights Act? Will he now support the Church of Scotland’s call for human rights to be fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament?

We are well aware of the concerns that have been expressed. We will be consulting fully, including with the devolved Administrations, in due course.

I welcome the Minister to his place. We often hear about rights. Does he agree that perhaps it should be renamed the European convention on human responsibilities?

My hon. Friend has been tenacious in his campaigning on this subject. He comes up with an ingenious suggestion. Actually, our concern has been less with the black-letter text of the convention and more with its application. Some of the problems have arisen from judicial legislation in the Strasbourg Court, some of them through the operation of the Human Rights Act, as the former shadow Justice Secretary acknowledged. We want to protect our fundamental rights and prevent abuse of the system.

Sir John Major, giving the inaugural Edward Heath lecture on the subject of Magna Carta last week, said that he respected the “power and significance” of the European convention on human rights, and that where there was conflict with the UK Parliament,

“I expect consultation and compromise to settle this issue.”

Should not the Minister, and indeed the Lord Chancellor, heed the advice of someone with so much experience of running a Tory Government with a wafer-thin majority?

We listen to all the informed voices in this debate. That is why we are going to have full consultation. We look forward to discussing this with the hon. Gentleman and many others across the House.