Divisions within the government have been highlighted with justice ministers insisting there are no plans to leave the European Convention on Human Rights.
Justice secretary Michael Gove was today among those to support remaining a signatory during a debate in parliament – just a day after home secretary Theresa May had suggested the UK should leave the convention.
During the debate, justice minister Dominic Raab (pictured) said the government’s policy on the ECHR ‘remains clear’ and insisted there are no proposals to withdraw in the forthcoming British bill of rights.
Raab said: ‘We are confident that we can replace the Human Rights Act with a bill of rights and reform our relationship with the Strasbourg court, and that is precisely what we intend to deliver.’
Gove, who is leading the campaign to leave the European Union, later said the policy had been spelled out by his colleague and he too advocated remaining within the ECHR.
The debate was followed by an urgent question from Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, who asked for a statement from May to parliament on her position.
With May absent from proceedings, it was left to attorney general Jeremy Wright to answer the question, but he said the government still prefers to achieve reforms while remaining a member of the convention.
Wright added: ‘Our reforms will focus on the expansionist approach to human rights by the Strasbourg court and under the Human Rights Act, but although we want to remain part of the ECHR, we will not stay in at any cost.
‘We have been clear that if we cannot achieve a satisfactory settlement within the ECHR, we may have no option but to consider withdrawal.’
Carmichael suggested the home secretary had ‘gone rogue’ and left ‘total confusion at the heart of government policy’, with the attorney general contradicting May’s statement.
‘Clearly, there has been a major shift in government policy and this house should have been the first to hear about it,’ he said.
‘The home secretary tells us that she wants to remain in the European Union but leave the convention; the under-secretary of state for justice wants to leave the European Union but remain in the convention; and the lord chancellor wants to leave the European Union, stay in the convention, but ignore the jurisprudence of the court.’