Tories threaten to leave ECHR unless Britain can defy human rights rulings

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The Conservatives have threatened that Britain will leave the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), unless it is allowed to flout rulings on human rights issues.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced today that the ultimatum will be delivered to European judges, and that the courts will need to come to terms with working in an advisory capacity with Britain.

The proposals, condemned by human rights groups as “nasty, spiteful and shameful”, suggest that the Human Rights Act, which was introduced under Labour in 1998, and which enshrined the ECHR in British law, would be nullified.

Prime Minister David Cameron also announced the proposal in his keynote address to the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham earlier this week, saying: “As for Labour’s Human Rights Act, we will scrap it once and for all.”

In its place, a Bill of Rights would be brought in, including the principles of the convention, which initially was drawn up following World War II.

The difference under the new proposals is that the new legislation would specify the British Supreme Court as the “ultimate arbiter” on human rights issues.

Mr Grayling today said: “We can no longer tolerate this mission creep. What we have effectively got is a legal blank cheque, where the court can go where it chooses to go. 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.”

On what would be said to the European judges, he continued: “We hope you can accept this. If you don’t accept it or you can’t accept it then we will withdraw from the [ECHR].”

Article 14 of the Human Rights Act, which affords protection from discrimination, has been used in many legal cases to argue for protection for LGBT people.

The calls to scrap the Act and leave the ECHR has been met with reservation from rights campaigners.

Kate Allen, the head of Amnesty International, said: “Disappointing to hear the PM vowing to scrap the Human Rights Act when it has done so much good. We should be defending it.”

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, added: “Shame on the Prime Minister for citing Churchill, while promising to trash his legacy.”