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Leaving the EU: Human Rights

Volume 630: debated on Tuesday 31 October 2017

2. What steps his Department is taking to maintain human rights standards after the UK leaves the EU. (901513)

The United Kingdom has a long tradition of ensuring rights and liberties are protected domestically and of fulfilling its international human rights obligations. The decision to leave the European Union does not change this.

Last week, during evidence to the Brexit Committee, the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker), said of the charter of fundamental rights:

“It is right that we leave behind the charter, and that we continue to rely on the Human Rights Act and the convention.”

Is it now the Government’s intention to stay in the European convention on human rights and to keep the Human Rights Act after Brexit?

The European convention on human rights is separate from the European Union, so leaving the European Union does not affect our membership of the convention.

When I was in opposition, we were assured again and again by Ministers that the charter of fundamental rights would not apply in the United Kingdom. I hope that we will be able to deliver that.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill ensures that the source rights that underpin the EU charter of fundamental rights will continue to have effect in UK law after we leave the EU. The charter was created as a collection of all the laws that the EU had passed, and it would be wrong if, post our leaving the European Union, that charter continued to be cited in any future legal case.

Can the Minister assure us that when we leave—if we leave—the European Union, human rights will very much involve the ability to put right miscarriages of justice and that the Criminal Cases Review Commission will be strengthened rather than weakened by our leaving Europe?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government’s intention is to confirm that post our leaving the European Union—when we leave the European Union—such access to justice is available to British citizens.

When the United Kingdom leaves the European Union—[Interruption.] I speak as a remainer. When that happens, does the Minister agree that the Council of Europe will become an increasingly important interlocutor between this country and the European Union? Will he reiterate this Government’s commitment to staying in the European Court of Human Rights?

Yes, when we leave the European Union, it is important that Britain maintains a strong role in international affairs in terms of its lead on human rights. I remind the House that the original convention on human rights was written by two Britons.