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European Convention on Human Rights

Volume 601: debated on Tuesday 3 November 2015

As I have made clear to the House before, although we cannot rule out leaving the ECHR for all eternity, our current plans for human rights reform do not involve leaving it.

The Minister will be aware that the ECHR is, of course, enshrined in the Scotland Act 2012, so the UK cannot withdraw from it without fundamentally undermining the devolution settlement. Why is the Minister considering doing that?

As I made clear, our current plans do not involve our pulling out of the convention, although we cannot rule it out for all eternity. The Human Rights Act 1998 already has an uneven application of rights to the devolved Administrations because of the devolved settlement. In Scotland, for example, the hourly rousing of detainees in police cells is unrelated to risk; in England and Wales, we do not have that, as it is focused on those who are vulnerable. I encourage the hon. Lady to focus her fire on addressing devolved issues such as that rather than pretending that there is some imminent threat to human rights from Westminster.

May I remind my hon. Friend that it was the English Parliament that brought in the Bill of Rights in 1688 and the British Parliament that brought in the Human Rights Act only 310 years later in 1998? Like so much legislation at that time, there were unintended consequences. Will the Minister therefore not listen to Opposition Members and get on with it?

My hon. Friend expresses himself in his usual tenacious and powerful way. It is true that the Conservatives have a long tradition of upholding freedom under the rule of law. We want to protect and strengthen that tradition, but we also want to avoid human rights being abused. We want this place to have the last word on where the bar is set for human rights, and we want the Supreme Court to be the ultimate body deciding on and interpreting them.

I thank the Minister for confirming that there are no plans to withdraw from the ECHR at this stage, but I note that he earlier confirmed that there will be a consultation on repealing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with the Bill of Rights. As he knows, the Human Rights Act applies across the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland. How does he propose to engage the people who live in Scotland, their Government at Holyrood and their elected representatives in this Chamber in his consultation on repealing the Human Rights Act?

Last week, despite objections from SNP Members in a debate on the Floor of the House, Conservative MPs joined forces with Labour MPs to ensure that no MPs representing a Scottish constituency would be on the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which scrutinises the compatibility of UK-wide Bills with human rights. In the light of that decision, how does the Minister expect us to have confidence that Scottish Members of Parliament will be fully involved in scrutiny of the implications of the Government’s consultations on repealing the Human Rights Act?

I give the hon. and learned Lady my personal undertaking to talk to her and any other colleagues, as she wishes, when the time comes for publication.

Does the Minister agree that any successor to the Human Rights Act should ensure that no compensation is paid in future to foreign nationals who move into foreign war zones and are then imprisoned by foreign countries? The British taxpayer should not be responsible for what takes place.

My hon. Friend, too, tenaciously raises these issues of extraterritorial jurisdiction and remedies for cases where people have behaved in an unsavoury or nefarious way. We will have full opportunity to look at all those issues in detail during the consultation.