The Tories will go into the next election promising a new relationship with the European Court of Human Rights after rows over prisoner voting and foreign criminals, the Justice Secretary has said.
By Rowena Mason, Political Correspondent
11:28AM GMT 28 Oct 2012
Chris Grayling said there would be a radical re-think of the UK’s approach to the Strasbourg court after it ruled against the UK ban on prisoner voting and stalled the deportation of terror suspect Abu Qatada.
His suggestion that the Conservatives will wait until 2015 to push for a new relationship may disappoint some Conservative MPs, who argue the court is undermining the House of Commons right now.
However, Mr Grayling did not rule out the idea that Britain could withdraw entirely from the European Convention on Human Rights at this point.
Asked whether the UK could leave, he told the BBC: “There’s a bigger, and longer and deeper question, which I have to address as part of my work as Justice Secretary running into the next election, and as a Conservative in particular.
“To say, what do we do about a situation where I think there is wide agreement, that the court is now doing things at a level that was never envisaged by its creators?
“Ken Clarke has already done some good work on trying to secure reform of the court, to get proportionality into what it does. But I think there is further to go. We will go into the next election with a very clear plan as to how a Conservative government would approach the whole issue of the European Court.”
MPs are worried about the court over-riding the sovereignty of parliament, after the court ruled Britain’s blanket ban on prisoner suffrage is illegal.
David Cameron has said inmates will not be given the vote, as parliament already decided 18 months ago to keep the ban.
Mr Grayling has said Britain will have to proceed “very carefully”, with MPs probably given a fresh say on whether to obey the court.
“The reality is that we are signed up the European Convention of Human Rights,” he said. “If therefore we choose to disagree with a ruling from that court, we have to understand that we are taking a significant step outside that international commitment.
He said there will be “political consequences” if parliament decides to disagree with the European court.”
“There are precedents from other European countries from them saying ‘no we don’t agree with you’ to the European Court of Human Rights,” he told the BBC. “But of course the counter-argument is that if we send a message that says we will stand up to the court, where does that leave countries in other parts of Europe that perhaps have less good human rights records than we do?”
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