Tories reveal plans to break ties with human rights court

Conservatives to scrap Human Rights Act and seize power from Europe if they win the next election

David Cameron
(Image credit: Paul Hackett - WPA Pool/Getty)

David Cameron is planning to cut ties with the European Court of Human Rights unless it allows British parliament to have the final say over its rulings.

The prime minister is due to announce plans to scrap the 1998 Human Rights Act and break the formal link between UK courts and the human rights court in Strasbourg if his party wins the next general election.

A new British Bill of Rights would prevent human rights laws being used by terrorists and criminals to stay in the UK, by travellers to occupy land illegally and by prisoners to demand the vote, say the Conservatives.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The European Convention on Human Rights was drafted by British lawyers after World War II, but Justice Secretary Chris Grayling describes the way in which the text has been interpreted in Strasbourg over the years as "mission creep".

He tells the Daily Telegraph: "We will put in place a provision that will say that the rulings of Strasbourg will not have legal effect in the UK without the consent of parliament. Effectively what we are doing is turning Strasbourg into an advisory body."

The Conservatives say they will publish a draft British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities before Christmas, with a strategy paper expected to be published today.

However, Isabella Sankey, director of policy at Liberty, describes the plans as "legally illiterate" and "clearly intended to diminish the rights of everyone in Britain".

She challenges Grayling's "mission creep" statement, noting that if the convention was applied according to the technology and social attitudes of the 1950s – when marital rape and corporal punishment were legal and homosexuality was prohibited – rights protection would "stagnate".

Tory MP and former attorney general Dominic Grieve has also dismissed his party's idea, describing it as "schoolboy stuff". He told the Financial Times: "This does not work and it is damaging to us to come up with half-baked solutions that don't bear close scrutiny."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.