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Leaving the EU: Human Rights

Volume 618: debated on Thursday 8 December 2016

4. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the UK leaving the EU on the protection of human rights in the UK. (907737)

The United Kingdom has a proud tradition of respect for human rights that long predates the European Union and that will continue following our withdrawal from it.

What existing human rights enjoyed by UK citizens under EU directives could not or should not be enshrined in UK law, if or when we leave the European Union?

As I hope I made clear in my first answer, I do not believe that human rights protections in this country are dependent on EU law. We will certainly look, in the course of the great repeal Bill and other measures that this House will have to consider, at how we transfer those obligations currently under EU law into domestic law where the House believes that it is appropriate to do so. I maintain the view that we will continue to protect human rights in this country. Moreover, we will continue to be leading advocates for human rights around the world.

Is it still the Government’s policy to introduce a separate Bill of Rights to enshrine things in British law?

We remain of the view that human rights law requires reform. I think that my hon. Friend and I are in full agreement that, although we have no quarrel with the content of the European convention on human rights, it is the way in which that document is applied that gives us difficulty. The Government are certainly committed to seeking to do something about that. He will have noticed that we have a few other things on our plate at the moment; I think we will have to resolve those before we can resolve the matter to which he refers.

What assurance can the Attorney General give that, once we exit the EU and become once again an emancipated, independent and liberated nation state on the stage of the world, we will maintain the proud heritage and tradition of defending individual rights in this United Kingdom?

I entirely share the hon. Gentleman’s confidence. We will certainly do that; we always have and we always will, and we will do it in all parts of the United Kingdom. As he knows, we will make sure that all parts of the United Kingdom are engaged in the process of exiting the European Union.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, when referring to our exit from the European Union, it is important to distinguish between that and the convention, and that the Government’s policy continues to be that we should remain in the European convention and observe human rights as before?

My hon. Friend is entirely right: those two things are distinct. It is our exit from the European Union that the public have confirmed in the referendum outcome and that we will now follow through. Of course, as I said earlier, our commitment to human rights will be maintained not just domestically but abroad.