Prime minister David Cameron today pledged that a Conservative government would scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British bill of rights.
Addressing the party conference in Birmingham, 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.
‘Rulings to stop us deporting suspected terrorists. The suggestion that you’ve got to apply the convention on the battlefields of Helmand. And now they want to give prisoners the vote. I’m sorry I just don’t agree.
‘Our parliament decided they shouldn’t have that right. This is the country that wrote Magna Carta… we do not require instructions from judges in Strasbourg. This country will have a new British bill of rights to be passed in our parliament, rooted in our values. And as for Labour’s Human Rights Act? We will scrap it.’
The announcement appears to have allayed speculation that a majority Conservative government would leave the European Convention on Human Rights. Last weekend justice secretary Chris Grayling indicated that the final decision on such rulings would be taken by the Supreme Court.
Urging the retention of the 1998 act, Law Society president Andrew Caplen said: 'The Human Rights Act ensures that the rights included in the European Convention on Human Rights are enshrined in UK law. The convention was established following the Second World War to protect the rights of the people over the powers of governments. The Law Society is proud of the protection that the Human Rights Act provides, of Britain's role in the creation of an EU-wide Court of Human Rights, and of the decisions that have been made there. We should promote the existing act, not replace it.'
Responding to the speech, Adam Wagner, the human rights and public law barrister who founded UKhumanrightsblog.com, tweeted: ‘Cameron complained about Strasbourg judges, but UK will remain in the ECHR. Parliament has international law duty to enforce its judgments.
‘So now we know that Grayling, [Theresa] May, [Dominic] Raab et al, who wanted to kill off the ECHR, have probably lost the debate. Rightly so. The problem of the ECHR criticism bubble is that it pops under analysis. Well done to whoever in the Tory party did that analysis.’
Speculation that the Tories would quit the ECHR prompted fierce criticism from former attorney general Dominic Grieve, who described the proposal as ‘anarchic’ and ‘dangerous’.