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Categorized | Civil Liberties

ECHR (1) – The government’s proposals

ECHR (1) – The government’s proposals

Addressing the party conference in Birmingham, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged that a Conservative government would scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British bill of rights.

He said: “Of course it’s not just the European Union that needs sorting out, it’s the European Court of Human Rights. When that charter was written, in the aftermath of the Second World War, it set out the basic rights we should respect. But since then interpretations of that charter have led to a whole lot of things that are frankly wrong.”

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is not a part of the European Union. It was signed in Rome in 1950, as part of the post-war efforts by the Allies to ensure that the horrors of the 1940s could never be repeated. It was agreed in the shadow of Nazism, at a time when Stalin was still in power in the Soviet Union.

A future Conservative government would be prepared to withdraw from the ECHR if a series of changes to it were rejected, the justice secretary Chris Grayling said. In a move that would raise questions about Britain’s membership of the Council of Europe, the 47-strong human rights watchdog, Grayling said a Tory government would withdraw from the convention if parliament failed to secure the right to veto judgments from the ECHR.

Under proposals to be included in the party’s general election manifesto, the Tories would reverse more than half a century’s tradition of human rights authority residing in Europe by giving parliament the right to veto judgments. The authority of the court in Strasbourg would be severely curtailed, with parliament given the final say in deciding whether or not to adopt ECHR decisions. A withdrawal from the convention would mean that Britain would abandon the Europe-wide system of enforcing human rights across the continent, which is meant to be observed by Russia, Ukraine and the former Yugoslav republics.

Introducing an eight-page strategy paper, entitled ‘Protecting Human Rights in the UK’, Grayling said: “We will put in place a provision that will say that the rulings of Strasbourg will not have legal effect in the UK without the consent of parliament. Effectively, what we are doing is turning Strasbourg into an advisory body.”

He went on to say: “The Convention is an entirely sensible statement of the principles which should underpin any modern democratic nation. Indeed, the UK had a great influence on the drafting of the Convention, and was the first nation to ratify it.” The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg has long been established as a means of enforcing the Convention’s terms. “However, the present position under the European Court of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act is not acceptable. The next Conservative Government will make fundamental changes to the way human rights laws work in the United Kingdom, to restore common sense and put Britain first.”

The proposed reforms will mean that the European Court of Human Rights is no longer binding over the UK Supreme Court, is no longer able to order a change in UK law and becomes an advisory body only. The claim is it would ensure a proper balance between rights and responsibilities in UK law. “At the heart of our plan is a new British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities,” Grayling said. “It will ensure that Parliament is the ultimate source of legal authority, and that the Supreme Court is indeed supreme in the interpretation of the law. We will shortly be publishing a draft of this Bill, to begin a process of engagement and consultation on the best way to achieve our aims.” The text of the original convention will be written into UK law and UK courts will no longer be required to “take into account” Strasbourg decisions.

The full text of ‘Protecting Human Rights in the UK’ can be found at:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/03_10_14_humanrights.pdf

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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