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European Convention on Human Rights

Volume 624: debated on Tuesday 25 April 2017

17. What the Government’s policy is on the UK remaining party to the European convention on human rights. (909810)

The European convention on human rights guarantees the right to free and fair elections to the legislature, but the vast majority of legislators in this country are unelected peers of the House of Lords. Have the Government ever taken legal advice on whether the existence of the House of Lords is compatible with protocol 1, article 3 of the ECHR?

I spent about 18 months on the Joint Committee looking at reform of the House of Lords in the last Parliament, and we took legal advice on every possible issue. If the hon. Gentleman would like to read the proceedings, he will enjoy them.

Order. Even though the hon. and learned Lady is a very distinguished lawyer, I shall still appeal to her for reasonable brevity.

Earlier this month, when I met UN officials in New York to discuss human rights issues, they were appalled to hear that the British Prime Minister had said that at the next general election she would be campaigning to withdraw the United Kingdom from the European convention on human rights. Can I take what the Minister said previously as a guarantee that this abhorrent commitment to withdraw from the European convention on human rights will not be in the Tory party manifesto for 8 June?

That was a good try, but I am afraid that I am not going to be launching the manifesto here at Justice questions. The hon. and learned Lady will have heard my earlier answer.

Article 8 of the European convention on human rights guarantees the right to respect for family and private life. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has written to the Government saying that the controversial rape clause raises serious issues under article 8. Can we assume from the Government’s insistence on proceeding with the rape clause that article 8 covers one of the rights guaranteed by the ECHR that they find inconvenient?

The Government are committed to supporting victims of rape and domestic abuse. This approach is crucial to protect women who face very difficult circumstances, and that is what the Government have been doing through the reforms to which the hon. and learned Lady refers. As part of these reforms, we have made sure that victims are able to use third sector professionals to endorse their claim while they receive support to help them to cope and recover. No Government have a better record on helping victims.