Clarke: 'No question' of human rights withdrawal

Clarke: 'I don't think you're going to get a British government that will say it is above international law'
Clarke: 'I don't think you're going to get a British government that will say it is above international law'

By Ian Dunt

There is "no question" of Britain pulling out of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), the justice secretary has confirmed.

The comment comes amid rising anger at a series of human rights judgements, including one demanding that prisoners are given the vote and another allowing people on the sex offenders register to appeal.

Appearing on BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show, Ken Clarke pointed out that the prisoner judgement occurred five years ago, when New Labour was still in power, and the sex offender judgement, which was made by the British supreme court, was made one year ago.


"It's certainly true we're having a lively debate about the European convention and we're going to have a commission [on a British bill of rights]," he said.

"There's no question of this government denouncing the European Convention of Human Rights.

"I don't think you're going to get a British government that will say it is above international law."

But there was a case for reforming the European court, the justice secretary argued.

"Behind all the heat there is a little light to shed on whether we couldn't address how the court behaves," he added.

"Are we certain the court operates properly? When we get the chairmanship of the Council of Europe in November we'll take the lead in trying to get the court to reform itself."

The commission on the British bill or rights will be set up in the next few weeks, Mr Clarke said, and conversations would take place between himself and Nick Clegg in the next few days to decide on membership and terms of reference.

"The government's policy is to continue to be a signatory to the ECHR," Mr Clarke said.

"The government's policy is to investigate the case for a British bill of rights. Quite separately while we're waiting for these proposals I think we should get reform of the courts."

The Tory backbenches have reacted angrily to the various human rights judgements reported over recent days, with Mr Cameron himself making no effort to distance himself from their irritation.

But with Dominic Grieve and Mr Clarke - both resolute defenders of the judiciary - leading the government's response to justice issues and Liberal Democrat ministers willing to resign over the Human Rights Act, the government is unlikely to take too firm a stand on European human rights rulings.

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