Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Tories 'may exit human rights body'

Chris Grayling said he was 'absolutely certain' the Tories would go into the election in 2015 with a plan to change the existing human rights legislation

Britain could pull out of the European Convention of Human Rights if the Tories win the next general election, a Cabinet minister said.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said he was "absolutely certain" the Tories would go into the election in 2015 with a plan to change the existing legislation based on Labour's Human Rights Act.

And he refused to rule out the prospect that a majority Conservative government could withdraw altogether from the 60-year-old European convention - which the act enshrined into British law.

His comments are likely to be welcomed by many Tory MPs, frustrated at rulings by the European Court of Human Rights blocking the deportation of the radical cleric Abu Qatada and giving prisoners the right to vote.

But there was dismay among their Liberal Democrat coalition partners, who accused the Conservatives of a move to the right after being beaten into third place by Ukip in the Eastleigh by-election.

Mr Grayling said recent rulings of the court had moved a long way from the original aims of the convention which was drawn up in the aftermath of the Second World War.

"I've not ruled anything in, I've not ruled anything out," he told BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics. "Anyone who sits down and reads it as a document would struggle to find a word they disagreed with. It is a sensible balance of rights and responsibilities, of principles for a democratic nation."

He added: "To my mind human rights is about some of the appalling things happening around the world, people being brutalised for their political views, people being put in jail. It's not about saying a prisoner has a right to artificial insemination while they're in jail."

But Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes said Mr Grayling was taking a deliberate political stance which would divide his own party. "This is clearly a very clear right-wing position. People like Ken Clarke will be very unhappy. It panders to an anti-Europeanism," he said.

Mr Hughes said that withdrawal from the convention would change the sort of country Britain was seen as by the rest of the world. "It would be huge in terms of repositioning the UK and changing us from being a country that upholds human rights to a country that doesn't look as if we are bothered about them in nearly the same way," he said. "I don't think it is a road the majority of the British public would want to go down."

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