Leaving the European Convention on Human Rights is still ‘on the table’ as part of the Government’s changes to human rights law, ministers have said.
Justice minister Dominic Raab said that though leaving the Convention was not one of ministers’ aims, they would be prepared to do so to accomplish them.
“We will legislate for a bill of rights to protect our fundamental rights, prevent abuse to the system, and restore some common sense to our human rights laws,” Mr Raab told MPs in the House of Commons.
“Our plans don’t involve us leaving the convention, that’s not our objective, but our number one priority is to restore some balance to our human rights laws so no option is off the table.”
The European Convention on Human Rights is ratified by every country in Europe except Belarus, the continent’s last dictatorship.
Even quasi-authoritarian states on region’s fringes, including Russia and Turkey, are signatories.
Former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling first officially mooted leaving the convention last year but the exact nature of the Conservatives' plan has been subject to confusion.
Mr Raab said the Government had concerns with the Convention’s implementation by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, as well as domestic human rights law.
“Our concern has been less with the black-letter text of the convention and more with its implementation,” he said.
“Some of the problems have arisen from judicial legislation by the Strasbourg court, some through the operation of the Human Rights Act. We want to protect our fundamental rights but prevent abuse of the system.”
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
1/8 Welfare payments will be slashed
One of the most controversial parts of the Conservative manifesto was to cut benefits for the working age poor by £12 bn over the next three years. But during the campaign they only said where £2 bn of these savings would come from. That leaves £10 bn still to find. Some experts think the only way they can close that gap is by means testing child benefit – with millions of families losing out
2/8 There will be tax cuts for those in work and those who die
The Tories will increase the threshold at which the 40p rate of tax becomes payable to £50,000 by 2020. They haven’t said so but it is also likely that at some point in the next five years they will abolish that 45p rate of tax altogether for the highest earners. They also want to increase the effective inheritance tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1m
3/8 There will be an in/out EU referendum in 2017
The next two years are going to be dominated by the prospect of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. First off David Cameron has the daunting task of negotiating a deal with other EU leaders an acceptable deal that he can sell to his party so he can go into the referendum campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote. This may be unachievable and it is possible that the Tories may end up arguing to leave. Opinion polls show Britain is divided on EU membership, one poll this year showed 51% said they would opt to leave compared to 49% who would vote to stay in
4/8 There will be more privatisation of the NHS
Having won the election the Tories now have a mandate to go further and faster reforming the NHS. In order to make cost savings there is likely to be greater private involvement in running services, while some smaller hospitals may lose services they currently provide like A&E and maternity units
5/8 There will be many more free schools – and traditional state schools will become a thing of the past
The Tories plans to create 500 new free schools and make 3,000 state schools become academies. They will also carry on reforming the Department of Education and remove more powers from local authorities over how schools are run
6/8 On shore wind farms will be a thing of the past and fracking will be the future
Government spending on renewable energy is under real threat now the Lib Dems are no longer in power with the Tories. Subsidies are likely to be slashed for off-shore wind farm and other green energy supplies. Meanwhile there will be generous tax break for fracking as ministers try and incentivise the industry to drill for onshore oil and gas
7/8 There maybe more free childcare – but not necessarily
In the campaign the Tories pledged to double the amount of free early education for three- and four-year-olds from 15 hours a week to 30. The extra hours would only be offered to working families where parents are employed for at least eight hours a week. However they have not said where the money will come from to fund the pledge
8/8 Workers' rights could be reduced
The Tories want to slash business regulation, merge regulator and cut costs. The Lib Dems stopped them from reducing the employment rights of workers in power – but these are now under threat
But Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn said the Government’s plan was contradictory and would reduce the Court to an “irrelevance”.
“On the one hand he says he supports the convention on the other hand he says all decisions must be made in British courts,” he said.
“If all decisions are made in British courts then the role of the ECHR will be an utter irrelevance to Britain and British people will then be denied the right of access to a treaty obligation that we signed in 1948.
The MPs were debating during Justice Questions in the House of Commons on Tuesday morning.
The European Convention on Human Rights was drawn up in the aftermath of WW2 in an initiative spearheaded by Britain.
British citizens can appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg or take cases in British courts under the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the convention in British domestic law and ensures that all arms of the British state abide by it.
Ministers are committed to scrapping the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a British Bill of Rights.